Heriot-Watt to lead Astrochemistry consortium

Leading institutions across Europe aim to improve our understanding of the crucial role played by icy dust grains in the formation of stars, planets and, potentially, life.

Heriot-Watt University is to lead a European-wide consortium, which will help early-stage researchers in the science of astrochemistry embark on a research career.

The project, LASSIE, is an Initial Training Network (ITN) funded under Marie Curie Actions within European Commission's 7th Framework Programme. It will receive funding of EUR 6.1 million (£5.5 million) over the next four years.

LASSIE will offer early-stage researchers the opportunity to improve their research skills, join established research teams and enhance their career prospects in a wide-range of disciplines including astronomy, chemistry and physics. The researchers will undertake research in the context of a Joint Research Training programme established by participating universities. It is expected that the network will train some 28 early-stage researchers in the next four years.

Professor Martin McCoustra from Heriot-Watt's School of Engineering and Physical Sciences, working closely with Dr Eva Day (Technology and Research Services) and colleagues from Leiden University and University College London, successfully secured this prestigious award after a very competitive selection procedure. With a success rate of only 9%, only 11 such projects were funded in Europe by the panel to which LASSIE was submitted.

Martin is looking forward to working with colleagues from a range of leading institutions across Europe to push back the frontiers of our understanding of the crucial role played by icy dust grains in the formation of stars, planets and, potentially, life.

The wider European and Global communities of astronomers and astrophysicists can expect to start benefiting from the work of this coordinated effort in solid state and surface laboratory astrochemistry from early 2010.