Education and Research
My name is Ryan Fortenberry, and I will be beginning my postdoc at NASA Ames in June 2012 after having successfully defended my Ph.D. work on February 21, 2012 in the Chemistry Department at Virginia Tech. My Ph.D. research in the Crawford Group dealt with Theoretical Interstellar Chemistry. By utilizing Coupled Cluster ab initio programs on the PSI3 (troubleshooting) platform I have been able predict the spectra for strange interstellar species. These can include radicals, various cations and anions, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polyenes, polyynes, cumulenes, and similar high energy species. Ultimately, I hope to use theory to predict the carriers of the Diffuse Interstellar Bands (DIBs), which are, as of yet, completely unexplained, although propadienylidene is promising for some bands. I have also worked to describe the rovibrational spectra of other interstellar species which may be applicable to readings from Mars atmospheres probes or deep space interstellar IR telescopes like SOFIA or the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Additionally, this type of research has application to any sort of electronic or rovibrational spectroscopy for radical, cationic, or even anionic species. The current direction in which my research is headed uses the explanation of the DIBs as a starting point into this field, but there are many other pontential applications of this study.
My research had a novel development in that Dr. Crawford and I are working on collaborations with the Laboratory Astrophysics Group at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics where I visited in October 2009. Work preceding these collaborations but connected to it was presented at the National ACS meeting in San Fransisco in March 2010. I also worked with Dr. Tim Lee, my new postdoc advisor and his group at the NASA Ames Research Center examing theoretical vibrational spectroscopy of interstellar molecules for comparison to several NASA missions including SOFIA, the James Webb Space Telescope, and the future ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter. I have also recently accepted a NASA Postdoctoral Program position at NASA Ames to continue with work Dr. Lee. Also, I have been using coupled-cluster theory to test a fairly recent hypothesis about the DIBs in that highly diffuse dipole-bound states of anions may be responsible for these absorption features. This work was inspired by the studies of Peter Sarre and his group at the University of Nottingham.
I graduated high school from Hillcrest Christian School in Jackson, MS in 2003. I attended Mississippi College in Clinton, MS where I earned a Bachelor's in Mathematics in 2006 and a Master's in Communication in 2007. As an undergraduate, I did research in theoretical and computational chemistry with Dr. David Magers in the Computational Chemistry Group. I did a joint research project in the Mathematics and Chemistry departments which culminated in my undergraduate Honor's theis: Mathematical Foundations of Hilbert Spaces which Can Be Used in Quantum Mechanics and Enthalpies of Formation for ThioEthers by Homodesmotic Reactions. I also published a paper in the journal Macromolecules, "Characterization and Photopolymerization of Divinyl Fumarate" along with Dr. Magers and several researchers at the University of Southern Mississippi. My Master's thesis was an applied science/health communication study entitled The Influence Factor: A Comparative Study of AIDS Ambient Media Messages between Zambia and Botswana which examined the ways in which these two financially different but geographically close countries use media messages to educate the average African about HIV/AIDS prevention.
I am highly interested not only in the fields of theoretical chemistry, interstellar chemistry, and astrochemistry, but also in science writing, social studies of science, and public relations for science business. Some combination of these areas is where I hope to spend my professional career, unless I find myself as an astronaut one day. I often still try to put my design and public relations skills to the good use and designed this display poster highlighting the professors in the physical division of the Chemistry Department here at VT.
- Vibrational frequencies and spectroscopic constants from quartic force fields for cis-HOCO: The radical and the anion. J. Chem. Phys., 135, 2011, 214303, DOI:10.1063/1.3643336.
- Electronically excited states of interstellar molecules. Ann. Rep. Comput. Chem., 7, 2011, 195-214, DOI:10.1016/B978-0-444-53835-2.00009-2.
- The trans-HOCO radical: Quartic force fields, vibrational frequencies, and spectroscopic constants. J. Chem. Phys., 135, 2011, 134301, DOI:10.1063/1.3643336.
- Singlet Excited States of Silicon-Containing Anions Relevant to Interstellar Chemistry. J. Phys. Chem. A, 115, 2011, 8119-8124, DOI:10.1021/jp204844j.
- Theoretical prediction of new dipole-bound singlet states for anions of interstellar interest. J. Chem. Phys., 134, 2011, 154304, DOI:10.1063/1.3576053.
- A Benchmark Study of the Vertical Electronic Spectra of the Linear Chain Radicals C2H and C4H. J. Chem. Phys., 132, 2010, 144303, DOI: 10.1063/1.3376073.
- Characterization and Photopolymerization of Divinyl Fumarate. Macromolecules, 40(17), 2007, DOI:10.1021/ma070344a.
- Fahrenheit -451 MC Arrowhead 2nd place essay, 2007
- Master's Thesis, 2007
- Hydrogen MC Arrowhead 1st place essay, 2006
- Undergraduate Honor's Thesis, 2006
- Mississippi Collegian Sports Editor, Assitant Editor, Editor, Contributing Writer (2004-2007)
Away from school I enjoy being active by playing soccer (this is kinda neat), lifting
weights, biking, hunting, fishing, and hiking on occaision. I also enjoy
reading and writing (either about science or exploration, mainly in the form of
Africa and the Himalayas), cooking, the night sky, learning Afrikaans, and
hearing myself talk. I am an avid traveler and have a large part of my heart
taken by southern Africa having been there four times now with my latest trip
taking place during August of 2011. I have also traveled to forty-four of the
fifty states, seen the Himalayas in Nepal, and been to India, Spain (Galicia),
England, the Netherlands (mainly just Schipol), and Kenya. I am always wanting
to go back to Zambia, Botswana, or South Africa and would like to make other
journeys to Namibia, Lesotho, New Zealand, Australia, more Himalayan ranges,
Canada, Iceland, Germany, and the Ukraine in just about that order. However, I
am up for anywhere, as long as it is an adventure. In the "summer" of 2010 I
also had the opportunity to visit South Africa during the World Cup.
For daily news and information about Africa, check out allafrica.com. I have found it to be a great resource for keeping up with the happenings, both good and bad, for the world as it relates to this special place. By way of books about Africa, I recommend anything by Martin Meredith. He is a journalist with a broad diversity of knowledge on African topics and is always well-informed and very readable. For stories of hunting in Africa, Capstick is the man to read in this area, especially for those who have experienced African safari hunting or wish to do so.
I am also married to the wonderful Lauren Fix Fortenberry originally of Buena Vista, Virginia and a three-time graduate of Virginia Tech (B.A. '06; M.A.Ed. '08; M.P.H '12) who has recently finished her Master's of Public Health. We were wed on August 8, 2009 at Hopkins Green in Lexington, Virginia by my sister and brother-in-law.
If you have any questions or comments about science, Africa, or anything else, feel free to email me.