Professor
Susanna L. Widicus Weaver

Assistant Professor of Chemistry
Emory University
Office: 425 Atwood Hall
1515 Dickey Drive
Atlanta, GA 30322-2210
phone: 404-727-4049
fax: 404-727-6586
susanna.widicus.weaver@emory.edu


 

Educational Background

B.S. in Chemistry from Illinois Wesleyan University (2000)
Honors research conducted with Prof. Wendy Wolbach

Ph.D. in Chemistry from the California Insitute of Technology (2005)
Astrochemistry research conducted with Prof. Geoffrey Blake

Postdoctoral Scholar in the Departments of Chemistry and Astronomy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2005-2008)
Astrochemistry research conducted with Prof. Benjamin McCall and in the CARMA observatory group


Research and Teaching Interests

I conduct research in the emerging field of prebiotic astrochemistry, where I investigate the chemical mechanisms in space that lead to the development of biological systems through interdisciplinary work in laboratory spectroscopy, observational astronomy, and astrochemical modelling. It is common for astrochemists to focus on only one of these areas, and only rarely does a researcher cross disciplinary boundaries. My expertise in all three areas of astrochemistry is therefore quite unique.

In my graduate research, I conducted the first integrated study of prebiotic interstellar chemistry, using both laboratory spectroscopy and observational astronomy to investigate biological building blocks such as sugars and aminoalcohols. I characterized these molecules after relocating, rebuilding, and upgrading the original Fourier-transform microwave spectrometer (vintage 1981) and developing a submillimeter spectrometer. I then used radio telescopes to search for these species in space. From these results, I pinpointed important prebiotic chemical pathways and challenged the conventional wisdom regarding complex interstellar chemical mechanisms.

While my thesis work gave me a strong foundation in spectroscopy and radioastronomy, my postdoctoral research extended this knowledge to new frequency ranges, spectroscopic techniques, and astrochemical applications. Molecular ions and other important astrochemical molecules such as C60 are challenging for spectroscopy, and I worked to overcome sensitivity limitations using novel molecular sources and cutting-edge spectroscopic methods. I joined Professor McCall's new group at the end of his first year at UIUC, and led the effort to design and construct his first three infrared continuous-wave cavity ringdown spectrometers. I benchmarked these spectrometers with simpler species and laid the groundwork for obtaining the first cold, resolved gas phase spectrum of C60 -- the largest and most symmetric molecule to ever be studied with high resolution spectroscopy. I also continued observations in radioastronomy that test the boundaries of organic interstellar chemistry, and developed the first astrochemical model to incorporate realistic solid state chemistry.

It is only through a combination of spectroscopy, observations, and modelling that we will fully understand the mechanisms driving interstellar chemistry and the pathways for the formation of life. To this end, my research group at Emory is extending this astrochemistry research to the investigation of highly reactive prebiotic organic molecules. Spectral, kinetic, and ultimately reaction dynamic studies of transient molecules are important not only to prebiotic molecular evolution in astrochemistry, but also to organic reaction mechanisms and atmospheric chemistry. These experiments require the development of new terahertz (THz) spectroscopic techniques to bridge the gap between the microwave and infrared spectral windows. I am uniquely qualified to undertake such an initiative, as this relatively unexplored area will expand upon the techniques that I used in my previous laboratory studies. This work is crucial for support of new far-infrared astronomical observatories, and we are building an integrated laboratory, observational, and modelling program that extends existing collaborations into the THz frequency range.

Refereed Publications

(For a complete list of publications and presentations, please see Dr. Widicus Weaver's CV)
  • Radhuber M.L., Sumner M.C., Kroll J.A., Lis D.C., McGuire B.A., Zmuidzinas J. Blake G.A. & Widicus Weaver S.L. , "A deep, broadband spectral line survey of Orion-KL at λ =1.3 mm." Astrophys. J., submitted, 2011.
     
  • Friedel D.N. & Widicus Weaver S.L., "A high spatial resolution study of the λ =3 continuum of Orion-KL." Astrophys. J., 742 64 - 72, 2011. (View Paper)
     
  • McGuire B.A., Wang Y., Bowman J.M., & Widicus Weaver S.L, "Do H5+ and its isotopologues have rotational spectra?" J. Phys. Chem. Lett., 2 1405-1407, 2011. (View Paper)
     
  • Neill, J. L., Steber, A. L., Muckle, M. T., Zaleski, D. T., Pate, B. H., Lattanzi, V., Spezzano, S., McCarthy, M. C., Remijan, A. J., Friedel, D. N., & Widicus Weaver S. L., "Spatial distributions and interstellar reaction processes." J. Phys. Chem. A., 115 64782-6480, 2011. (View Paper)
     
  • Laas J. C., Garrod R. T., Herbst E., & Widicus Weaver S. L., "Contributions from grain surface and gas phase chemistry to the formation of methyl formate and its structural isomers." Astrophys. J., 728 71 (9pp), 2011. (View Paper)
     
  • Braakman, R., Drouin, B. J., Widicus Weaver, S. L., & Blake, G. A., "Extended analysis of hydroxyacetone in the torsional ground state." J. Mol. Spec., 264, 43-49, 2010. (View Paper)
     
  • Lovas F. J., Plusquellic D. F., Widicus Weaver S. L., McGuire B. A., & Blake G. A., "Organic compounds in the C3H6O3 family: Microwave spectrum of cis-cis-dimethyl carbonate." J. Mol. Spectrosc., 264, 10-18, 2010. (View Paper)
     
  • Carroll P. B., Drouin B. J., & Widicus Weaver S. L., "The submillimeter spectrum of glycolaldehyde." Astrophys. J., 723, 845-849, 2010. (View Paper)
     
  • Brumfield B. E., Stewart J. T, Widicus Weaver S. L., Escarra M. D., Howard S. S., Gmachl C. F. & McCall B. J. "A quantum cascade laser cw cavity ringdown spectrometer coupled to a high temperature oven supersonic expansion source."
    Rev. Sci. Instrum., 81, 063102, 2010. (View Paper)
     
  • Plambeck R. L., Wright M. C. H., Friedel D. N., Widicus Weaver S. L., Bolatto A. D., Pound M. W., Woody D. P., Lamb J. W., & Scott S. L. "Tracing the bipolar outflow from Orion Source I."
    Astrophys. J., 704, L25-L28, 2009. (View Paper)
     
  • Widicus Weaver S. L., Woon D. E., Ruscic B., & McCall B. J. "Is HO2+ a detectable interstellar molecule?"
    Astrophys. J., 697, 601-609, 2009 (View Paper)
     
  • Garrod R. T., Widicus Weaver S. L., & Herbst E. "Chemistry during the warm-up phase of a hot core: A new grain/gas chemical model."
    Astrophys. J., 682, 283-304, 2008. (View Paper)
     
  • Widicus Weaver S. L., Wiczer M. B., Negru B., DiGangi J. P., Tom B. A., & McCall B. J. "Continuous-wave cavity ringdown spectroscopy of the N2+ Meinel System (2,1) band."
    J. Mol. Spectrosc., 249, 14-22, 2008. (View Paper)
     
  • Widicus Weaver S. L., Remijan A. J., McMahon R. J., & McCall B.J. "A search for ortho-benzyne (oC6H4) in CRL 618."
    Astrophys. J., 671, L153-L156, 2007. (View Paper)
     
  • Widicus Weaver S. L. & Blake G.A. "1,3 Dihydroxyacetone in Sagittarius B2(N-LMH): The first interstellar ketose."
    Astrophys. J., 624, L33-L36, 2005. (View Paper)
     
  • Widicus Weaver S. L., Butler R. A. H., Drouin B. J., Petkie D. T., Dyl K. A., De Lucia F. C., & Blake G.A. "Millimeter-wave and vibrational state assignments for the rotational spectrum of glycolaldehyde."
    Astrophys. J. Suppl., 158, 188-192, 2005. (View Paper)
     
  • Feldman M. T., Widicus S. L., Blake G. A., Kent D. R., & Goddard W. A. "Aminomethanol water eliminatino: Theoretical examination."
    J. Chem. Phys., 123, 034304, 2005. (View Paper)
     
  • Widicus S. L., Braakman R., Kent D. R., & Blake G. A. "The millimeter and submillimeter rotational spectrum of 1,3-dihydroxyacetone."
    J. Mol. Spec., 224, 101-106, 2004. (View Paper)
     
  • Kent D. R., Widicus S. L., Blake G. A., & Goddard W. A. "A theoretical study of the conversion of gas phase methanediol to formaldehyde."
    J. Chem. Phys., 119, 5117-5120, 2003. (View Paper)
     
  • Widicus S. L., Drouin B. J., Dyl K. A., & Blake G.A. "Millimeter wavelength measurements of the rotational spectrum of 2-aminoethanol."
    J. Mol. Spec., 217, 278-281, 2003. (View Paper)