Topics discussed here:

What is cosmochemistry?

How did I become interested in cosmochemistry?

What resources (textbooks, journals, etc)
will help you learn more about cosmochemistry?

Where (Universities & Research Institutions) can you study cosmochemistry?

What is cosmochemistry?

Our place in space
Our place in space (not to scale)

We are all part of a massive and complex system called the Universe. What was the chemical composition of the Solar System when it formed, what factors influenced the original composition of the Solar System and how has its composition changed over time? These broad questions are at the foundation of the field of cosmochemistry. However, most of the research in cosmochemistry focuses on the origin and evolution of the Solar System from the study of extraterrestrial material, especially meteorites and their components.

Cosmochemistry is a relatively young field of science, beginning around the 1950s-1960s. There are many outstanding people that contributed to the development of cosmochemistry, but I am especially fond of Harvey Nininger (1887-1986).  Beginning around the 1930s, Nininger collected meteorites from all over the Great Plains of the United States. He went around to the different farms teaching people how to identify meteorites and paid people for the meteorites they found. After a while, his meteorite collection grew to be so large that he founded the American Meteorite Museum in Arizona in 1942. His legacy lives on until this day.  His work paved the way for the development of cosmochemistry by encouraging scientists to appreciate how important meteorites are for understanding the world around us. For a more detailed biography visit

American Meteorite Museum
American Meteorite Museum founded by Harvey Nininger
A windy day at Meteor Crater. This is a well-preserved meteorite impact crater in Arizona. Based on various dating methods, this impact occurred around 50 million years ago. The American Meteorite Museum was first located near this crater.

How did I become interested in cosmochemistry?

I was introduced to cosmochemistry when I was an undergraduate at the University of Chicago.  For my undergraduate research, I studied the geochemistry of terrestrial rocks with Dr. Nicolas Dauphas, who also studied meteorites. I was fascinated by what I learned about meteorites and I wanted to know more.  So, I began attending the weekly seminars organized by the Chicago Center for Cosmochemistry, where I learned more about meteorites and their various components (e.g., CAIs, presolar grains and chondrules). My experiences working with Nicolas, Dr. Andy Davis (also at UChicago) and Dr. Mike Savina (at Argonne National Lab) were very rewarding and encouraged me to pursue research in cosmochemistry for my Ph.D.  Meteorites are complicated, but fascinating rocks.  There is still so much that remains to be understood about their formation and history. 


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