23 April 2018

Tenure Track researcher at IMAU

Meet our new assistant professor

Elena Popa
Elena Popa in front of the MAT 253 Ultra, a mass spectrometer with which the ratio of different isotopes can be measured extremely accurately

I came to IMAU eight years ago, initially for one year – and never left since. That’s because at IMAU I found the perfect combination of people, knowledge and facilities, plus the support and freedom to follow my curiosity and research interests.

In recent years I worked on a wide range of topics related mostly to atmospheric hydrogen and carbon monoxide, including vehicle emissions, exchange of trace gases between atmosphere, soil and microbes, emission by plants etc. During this period, my interest in atmospheric gases evolved to include isotopes. I am currently running the carbon monoxide and hydrogen isotope analysis facilities at the IMAU lab. Because of the uniqueness of these tools, I often get the request to analyze special samples from all over the world and to collaborate in interesting projects. I love the richness and variety of this work which is often interdisciplinary, but I also enjoy doing something that almost nobody else can do.

Made possible by a Gravitation Grant to the Netherlands Earth System Science Centre (NESSC, see www.nessc.nl), I recently started a Tenure Track position in IMAU's Atmospheric Physics and Chemistry Group, which is the perfect opportunity for me to grow in this research field. My work on isotopes will continue, but from now at a different scale and applied to NESSC projects: using the new MAT-Ultra high resolution mass spectrometer, I will study clumped isotopes of gases like methane, hydrogen and carbon monoxide. “Clumped isotopes” refer to molecules that have two or more rare isotopes, and their abundance can give very valuable information about e.g. the temperature of formation of atmospheric gases (and thus their sources), or the processes affecting their concentration.  Partly because these clumped molecules are very rare, such measurements are technically extremely challenging. That means they are also potentially very rewarding, as there is a whole research field waiting to be unlocked.

I am very enthusiastic about the possibilities for fascinating research offered by this new position. But I am also excited about going to the next level in my career, which comes with new challenges and new opportunities – including teaching and writing my own proposals.

And to my IMAU colleagues: I am looking forward to working with you all in the coming years.

Elena Popa