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Graduate Defense: Rachel Reichow

February 21 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Thesis Defense

Thesis Information

Title: Cyanide Abundance Of Highly Aqueously Altered Cm Chondrites: Insight For Asteroid Bennu

Program: Master of Science in Chemistry

Advisor: Dr. Michael Callahan, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Committee Members: Dr. Dmitri Tenne, Physics and Dr. Eric Brown, Chemistry and Biochemistry


Prebiotic chemistry took place on early Earth approximately four billion years ago. Cyanide was likely a key molecule in this chemistry since it is known to produce both amino acids and nucleobases, which are essential building blocks of proteins and nucleic acids, respectively. Asteroids, and the meteorites that come from them, can give us insight as to how these prebiotic reactions may have occurred. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission has recently returned a pristine sample of asteroid Bennu to Earth. Bennu is thought to be similar in composition to highly aqueously altered carbonaceous chondrite meteorites. I have analyzed three meteorites thought to be good Bennu analogues and have determined their cyanide abundance. I have also explored the speciation of the cyanide present. I will discuss the background and motivation of this project, the analytical method used to extract and analyze cyanide in meteorites, my results, and how these results can help us determine cyanide abundance in Bennu regolith.