Olivia Harper Wilkins

Ph.D. Physical Chemistry 2021 (expected)
California Institute of Technology

B.S. Chemistry and Mathematics 2015
Dickinson College

Research Interests

Nearly 200 molecules have been detected in the interstellar medium (ISM) or in circumstellar shells. Of these, roughly one-third are complex organic molecules (COMs) having six or more atoms. COMs include saturated molecules (e.g. ethanol, CH3CH2OH) and unsaturated long carbon chains (e.g. cyanohexatriyne, HC7N). The formation pathways of such molecules are elusive, and understanding chemical evolution in the ISM is a current frontier in astrochemistry. I am interested in investigating the formation pathways of COMs in environments such as the Kleinmann-Low nebula in Orion (Orion KL), a highly active star-forming region. Studying such astrochemical environments is done using telescopes like the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA).

To learn more about my research interests, telescopes, or my adventures in grad school , check out my personal website.

Honors & Awards


My full curriculum vitae can be found here.

National Science Foundation National Graduate Research Fellowship, 2016-2021
Fulbright Research Fellowship to Germany, 2015-2016
Phi Beta Kappa Honors Society, Pennsylvania Alpha, inducted 2015
Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, 2014-2015