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Michael Wood

Assistant Professor

Physics

Where do the elements in the periodic table come from?  Why are some rarer than others?  Can determining their amounts in an exoplanet help us find life beyond Earth?  These questions can be addressed through laboratory astrophysics, a research area that bridges astronomy and physics.  By measuring the quantity of each element in a large sample of stars, astronomers learn about the distribution of elements in our Galaxy.  Combined with models of their creation, this helps to identify the specific astronomical origin of each element.  However, the accuracy of this information is partially limited by the input atomic data used in these stellar measurements.  By analyzing laboratory plasma sources using a variety of spectroscopic techniques, my research provides data for thousands of atomic transitions to improve the astronomical results and get more refined answers to these fundamental questions.