The Department of Chemistry and the Department of Physics & Astronomy at The University of Hawaii at Manoa opened the new interdisciplinary graduate program ‘Reaction Dynamics, Laboratory Astrophysics, and Planetary Sciences’ leading to a Ph.D. degree in chemistry and physics, respectively. The prime directive of this endeavor is to unravel the underlying mechanisms on how complex, often carbon-bearing molecules and nanostructures are synthesized from the bottom up via single atoms, radicals, and small molecules in extreme environments. These are combustion flames, rocket propulsion systems, in the interstellar medium, atmospheres of planets and their satellites, cometary comae, and chemical vapor deposition processes. The experiments involve reactive scattering studies and employ a novel crossed beams machine (gas phase chemistry) and gas-surface scattering setups (interaction of extraterrestrial ices, carbonaceous surfaces, and minerals with charged particles, UV/VUV photons, and atoms); theoretical studies engage modern electronic structure calculation to untangle the energetics, dynamics, molecular structures, and the elementary mechanisms in the gas phase and in the solid state. Newly formed molecular species and nanostructures are characterized via atomic force and scanning tunneling microscopes, spectroscopically employing laser detection techniques, and through time-of-flight mass spectrometry.   

In collaboration with several research groups from the Hawaiian Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP), the Institute for Astronomy (IfA), and The Open University (UK) (Distance Learning Open University), cutting edge research projects (laboratory experiments, electronic structure calculations, astronomical observations) will be linked to lecture courses outlining fundamental principles in physical chemistry, physics, reaction dynamics, astrochemistry, astrobiology, planetary chemistry, combustion sciences, and nanomaterial research. Students are required to accumulate 6 credits in seminars and 18 credits in graduate courses. Requirements are reduced for those students holding a master degree or equivalent. An interdisciplinary seminar series is an integral part of this graduate program. Speakers involve participating graduate students, local faculty members, and external guest lecturers, which are internationally recognized experts in the fields of reaction dynamics, astrophysics, astrobiology, planetary sciences, and combustion chemistry. Extensive collaborations within the NASA-Astrobiology Institute at The University of Hawai'i enable graduate students  at an early stage of their career to gain also valuable professional research experience beyond the State of Hawaii.

Interested candidates should send a letter of interest, three letters of recommendation, transcripts or equivalent documentation, and a curriculum vitae to Prof. Ralf I. Kaiser, Department of Chemistry, University of Hawai’i at Manoa, 2545 The Mall, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA (email: ralfk@hawaii.edu ) or to Prof. Klaus Sattler, Department of Physics, University of Hawai'i, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA (email: sattler@hawaii.edu ). Depending on the qualification, candidates are offered teaching (TA) or research assistantships (RA) and full tuition fee waivers.