Back in my home country, Germany, I studied physics and obtained a Bachelor of Science (BSc) and a Master of Science (MSc) degree from the University of Münster. Both thesis projects concentrated on solid state physics and low-dimensional materials on surfaces. In particular, I investigated 1- and 2-dimensional structures of silicon deposited on different single crystalline surfaces of silver with a range of surface science techniques such as (inverse) photoelectron spectroscopy (PES/IPE), low energy electron diffraction (LEED), and Auger electron spectroscopy (AES).
Silicon and carbon form similar structures on surfaces, which is why I got interested in graphene flake-like molecules, the so-called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs are abundant in space as a part of the cosmic dust in the interstellar medium. During my PhD at the Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie (IRAP) and the University of Toulouse, France, I investigated the interactions of interstellar PAHs with (vacuum) ultraviolet and infrared light in the gas-phase using ion trap experiments combined with mass spectrometry techniques. These were located at my host institution, i.e. PIRENEA@IRAP, but also at larger research facilities such as the synchrotron SOLEIL in St. Aubin, France. In a collaboration with the Radboud University and the University of Cologne, I also used the FELion cryogenic ion trap at the free electron laser facility, FELIX, located in Nijmegen in The Netherlands. My PhD project was part of the Innovative Training Network “EUROPAH”, a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action funded by the European Commission under Horizon2020.
At InterCat, I will be able to combine my experience in surface science cultivated during my Bachelor and Master with my passion for laboratory astrophysics and astrochemistry from my PhD, and examine catalytic reactions of astro-PAHs on surfaces.