Callahan awarded NASA grant to investigate organic compounds in meteorites

Mike Callahan
Mike Callahan in the lab, photo by Allison Corona

Assistant professor of chemistry Mike Callahan has been awarded a two-year, $344,861 grant from the NASA Emerging Worlds Program. This program aims “to understand the formation and early evolution of the Solar System.” As principal investigator, Callahan and co-principal investigator Karen Smith will investigate how water in asteroids played a role in the organic composition found in extraterrestrial meteorite samples.

The team will use a technique called ultrahigh resolution mass spectrometry. Mass spectrometry measures the mass-to-charge ratio of a compound, which can be used to identify the compound. With this technique, Callahan and Smith can measure thousands of organic compounds simultaneously in a single mass spectrum.

“The organic compounds studied in meteorites today are the same organic compounds in meteorites that would have been delivered to early Earth billions of years ago. Some of these organic compounds may have been important to the chemistry leading to the origin of life on Earth,” said Callahan.

To learn more about Callahan and Smith’s research, visit: