Christopher M. Stanisky, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Chemistry, Department Chair
I like to tell stories ... stories of how we have come to conceive of this peculiar language we call chemistry. To the casual observer, chemists use obscure rules and notations to describe the things we cannot see. The language we speak was encoded by the incredible teamwork performed by scientists around the world to explain observations made in a variety of experiments. These are the stories I like to tell: The puzzles solved by the brilliant men and women who have gone before. It humbles me to think of how creative they were to conceive of and then build their own instrumentation to make fundamental measurements on the microscopic world around us. For 50 years, we watched television on cathode ray tubes, but these were originally designed almost a century earlier by the discoverers of electrons. How talented these scientists were! Our ability not only to understand but also to manipulate electrons has spawned the fast-paced growth of consumer electronics, producing increasingly quicker computers that we can now hold in the palms of ours hands. These wonders are often taken for granted by so many of us. I try to instill a sense of scientific intuition that allows students to appreciate what we have accomplished in this world, and, of course, what nature has accomplished. I hope furthermore that this inspires students to recognize how incredibly precious this gift is that we have been given - i.e. our existence and this amazing planet we are so blessed to inhabit. This is a story everyone should know and appreciate.
In my research, I plan to study the chemistry induced by low energy electron beams in thin films of cold ice mixtures. The electron beams ionize molecules in the target and initiate chemical reactions. Since this work is performed in a vacuum chamber, and the ice mixtures are cooled to low temperatures, these experiments simulate reactions that occur as a result of cosmic ray bombardment of the icy surfaces of comets, meteors, and dust particles in the interstellar medium, as well as moons of large planets or even planets themselves.