Hello. My name is Ruud Visser and I am a postdoctoral researcher with Prof. Ted Bergin at the Department of Astronomy at the University of Michigan. My research focuses on the chemical aspects of low-mass star formation. Combining observations and computer simulations, I’d ultimately like to understand how the Sun and the Earth were formed and how life here emerged.
Why chemistry? For one thing, because chemistry in space is so different from chemistry on Earth, so much more exotic than what we can do in a laboratory, and that’s cool. For another, because chemistry is an excellent tool to help unravel the mysteries of star and planet formation. In the earliest phases of star formation, when the young star is still deeply embedded in its natal envelope, molecular lines allow us to determine temperatures, densities, and kinematics. For example, emission from highly rotationally excited CO – observed with the Herschel Space Observatory – reveals the presence of hot gas excited by shocks and UV radiation. Chemical models are a key component to interpreting the observed spectra of CO and other species, so I also spend a lot of time on developing such models in the framework of ever more complex 3D physical structures.
- energetics and dynamics of embedded low-mass protostars
- chemical evolution from pre-stellar cores to circumstellar disks
- photoprocesses (e.g. photoevaporation, photodissociation)
Outside of science
Following my move to Ann Arbor in early 2011, I’ve developed an unexpectedly strong interest in birding. I head out into the city parks or nearby state parks as often as I can to watch familiar birds or find new species for my ever-growing life list. When out traveling for a conference or other business, I always pack my binoculars and try to spend some time at a local birding hotspot.