Bobby Grayson

Bobby Grayson

Grad student in the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering

Hometown: Richmond, VA

Date of this Interview: January 23, 2023

What do you research?

I do experimental and simulation studies of weathering of ices by reactive low-energy ions. These ions can drive unexpected chemistry, changing the surface and gas phase compositions (e.g. generating prebiotic chemicals, supporting an exosphere). Although their kinetic energy is relatively low, they occur at much higher fluxes than high-energy particles (e.g. cosmic rays), so they are are still an important, if underappreciated, aspect of the radiation environment, particularly at comets and the icy moons of gas giants.

Why does space inspire you?

In my field, Chemical Engineering, and in many others, it can sometimes feel like the fundamental science has been exhausted - breakthroughs that really revolutionize our understanding are frustratingly rare (and usually in Physics). When we say space, we really mean everything that's not on Earth, and that is, in fact, most things. We know relatively little about space. Therefore, we don't know much about most things. It is a humbling and exciting reminder that there is plenty of science left to do!

If you could instantly travel to any point in the universe, where would you choose to go?

I certainly wouldn't be keen to make a one way trip off this rock. As far as I know, Earth is still the best place for a human to be. Assuming I could get home, I'd love a canoe trip in one of Titan's hydrocarbon lakes.

Where can you be found when you’re not conducting research?

Probably somewhere outside doing something active - hiking, rock climbing, or playing tennis.

What book do you wish you could read for the first time again?

Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin. It was the first really good sci-fi I read, and it opened my eyes to what the genre could be.

Picture of Bobby preparing to load a sample for ion beam exposure.

Bobby preparing to load a sample for ion beam exposure.