Associate Professor of Chemistry Karen Castle received a $178,000 grant in March from NASA to study the planet Mars.
Castle will study Mars’ middle and upper atmosphere using a quantum cascade laser that was purchased with the grant. NASA’s Mars Fundamental Research Program awarded Castle the grant, which focuses on atmospheric and climate research.
The quantum cascade laser, which was purchased in August 2013, will be used to measure the kinetic energy created by the collisions between CO2 molecules. The laser allows a high degree of precision and variability needed to study Mars.
In addition to the purchase of the quantum cascade laser, the grant will be used to provide supplies such as research grade gases, optics, and liquid nitrogen. A portion of the grant will also be used to support student research at the University.
Prior to 2002, before working as a professor, Castle was a postdoc at the Air Force Research Lab and worked on several studies involving the upper atmosphere particularly, Earth’s upper atmosphere. Previously, Castle also was a co-principle investigator on another NASA grant.
Castle is currently collaborating with student researchers and several graduate students on the new Mars research.
“I hope we can offer, even if we don’t have full courses, being able to plug units into existing courses. I also hope that this work will help us build a bridge between departments and foster new connections across programs,” Castle said.