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Fred Ciesla's Research

My research focuses on the formation and early evolution of planetary systems. I am interested in answering such questions as:
  • What is the link between comets, chondritic meteorites, and the building blocks of the planets?
  • What were the important processes that guided the early evolution of the solar system?
  • Are these processes common or rare in other protoplanetary systems?
  • Further, are there other planetary systems similar to ours in the Milky Way, or is ours relatively unique?

I work to answer these questions by developing and applying numerical models to interpret and understand the chemical, thermal, and dynamical evolution of the primitive materials found in meteorites and comets. Thus, I take an interdisciplinary approach, trying to bridge the fields of astrophysics, cosmochemistry, and planetary science. Among the projects I am currently working on are:
  • Developing models for the coupled dynamical, collisional, and chemical evolution of solid grains in the solar nebula and protoplanetary disks
  • Studying the origin of organic molecules found in meteorites and cometary samples, and how these materials relate to the organic molecules used in life on Earth
  • Studying how Jupiter became uniformly enriched in volatile species compared to a gas of solar composition
  • Quantifying the collateral effects of planetesimal collisions during planet formation and how that relates to the meteorite record
  • Understanding the dynamical evolution of water in protoplanetary disks and how water could be delivered to potentially habitable planets

Research Opportunities for Students

There are a number of opportunities for both graduate and undergraduate students to get involved in my research. A list of former students can be found here. If you are interested in what opportunities exist, please feel free to contact me for more information.