Sandia National Laboratories and UC Davis have solidified a new partnership as David Osborn, a distinguished member of technical at Sandia’s Combustion Research Facility, joins the Department of Chemical Engineering as an adjunct professor. In his role, Osborn will teach guest lectures each year—something he has already been doing—and serve as the liaison between Sandia and chemical engineering students and faculty in the department.
His appointment facilitates collaboration between the two institutions. It not only opens the door for more UC Davis students and postdoctoral scholars to conduct research at Sandia, but also allows researchers at the two institutions to work together on interdisciplinary research projects.
“Sandia has unique and valuable scientific equipment, and this partnership could make that available to students on a long-term basis,” he said.
Osborn is a chemist who studies gas phase chemical physics, or how chemical bonds are formed and broken in the gas phase. He is known for his work on reaction intermediates—molecules that exist in the middle of a chemical reaction, between the product and reactant phase. Imaging and studying these particles gives scientists a clearer understanding of how chemical reactions actually work. His team is best-known for being the first to directly measure Criegee intermediates, which occur when ozone molecules interact with hydrocarbons in the troposphere.
“Seeing these reactive intermediates helps you restrict all the possibilities that might happen [in a reaction] to the one or two that actually do happen,” he said.
Osborn’s new role also formalizes a research partnership between Sandia and UC Davis to study the relationship between a catalytic surface and gas molecules just above it. The theory is that the gaseous reaction intermediates could either be playing a role in chemical reactions on the surface or be a reporter of how the catalyst below is behaving. Though the gas phase and the surface in reactions have been analyzed separately, UC Davis and Sandia plan to combine their expertise in catalysis and gas phase chemical physics, respectively, to study them simultaneously.
“It’s pretty innovative to try to make these measurements with good time resolution and good spatial resolution immediately above the surface, and we want to use it to provide a new viewpoint that we think has been missing,” he said. “I think it will be a really great partnership.”
Osborn received his B.S. in chemistry at the University of Chicago, his Ph.D. in physical chemistry at UC Berkeley and did postdoctoral work at the University of Colorado – Boulder. Though he originally planned to be a professor as a postdoctoral scholar, he was offered a job at Sandia National Labs, where he has been since. Though he’s never regretted his decision, he is excited to partner with UC Davis to once again be part of the academic life.
“I am excited to have this opportunity to be associated with an academic department,” he said. “That was my plan as a postdoc, so it’s exciting to see part of that coming back full circle.”