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As the director of the Washington University Nanoscale Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometer (NanoSIMS), I was responsible for high-resolution, high-sensitivity isotopic measurements, which are required to find isotopic anomalies in presolar grains. I have over 16 years of experience with NanoSIMS techniques (including developing software and analytical protocols) in multiple laboratories, and have been extensively trained by not only leaders in the field, but also the people directly involved in its development. Washington University’s NanoSIMS was the first commercially available instrument of its kind, and, as such, the cumulative knowledge base of the members of the Laboratory for Space Sciences in the Physics Department, where the machine was installed in 2000, is unique in the world. I personally have extensive experience applying this measurement technique to a variety of samples.

 I was the day-to-day operator of the "Harvard" NanoSIMS 50L, in the Boston area, the next generation NanoSIMS instrument. We measure biological samples labelled with stable isotopes, such as D and    N, at nanoscale resolution, with high sensitivity. By using automatic techniques, large areas of the samples can be imaged and assembled into large mosaics in order to "see" where in the tissue the label is, and thus even image sub-cellular features. This is a technique pioneered by the lab's founder, Dr. Claude Lechene, that combines ion microscopy with histology.

Positions and Employment

2000 - 2003  Teaching Assistant, Department of Physics, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, MO

2003 - 2005  Teaching Assistant, Department of Physics, Washington University, St. Louis, MO

2004 -           Member, Meteoritical Society

2005 - 2009  Research Assistant, Department of Physics, Washington University, St. Louis, MO

2009 - 2011  Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institution of Washington,                                         Washington, D.C.

2009 -           Peer reviewer, Meteoritics and Planetary Science, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta

2010             Astrobiology Fellow, Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institution of Washington,                                         Washington, D.C.

2011 - 2017  Research Scientist and NanoSIMS Lab Manager, Department of Physics, Washington University, St. Louis,                         MO

2012 - 2015  McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences Fellow, Washington University, St. Louis, MO

2013             Member, NASA Cosmochemistry Review Panel

2018 -           Consulting Science Editor, Accdon LLC, Waltham, MA

2018 - 2022  Lecturer on Medicine and Research Scientist, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital


Invited Talks

2008            “The Development of automated, high-throughput NanoSIMS measurement techniques and                                            applications to presolar grains”, 5th Biennial Geochemical SIMS Workshop, University of Wisconsin-                                  Madison, Madison, WI

2013            “Constraining timescales before the formation of the Solar System with grains of stardust”, 12th                                        International Symposium on Origin of Matter and Evolution of Galaxies (OMEG12), Tokyo, Japan

Scientific Interests

Most meteorites come from asteroids crashing into each other in the asteroid belt, pieces of which eventually rain down on earth. In very primitive meteorites, one can find dust grains (termed either presolar or stardust) with isotopic anomalies orders of magnitude greater than can be produced by any natural process in the Solar System. These grains are astrophysical fossils preserved mostly unaltered over 4.6Ga from long-dead stars (e.g., supernovae, red giant stars, novae).


My research has focused on understanding these grains’ nucleosynthetic, elemental, and crystallographic histories, using both micro-analytical techniques and theoretical models. In this way, we can better understand the astrophysical history of the building blocks of the Solar System and the stellar evolution of the celestial bodies which constituted the precursor material from which we all formed.

My most recent work has focused on the application of stable isotope labeling kinetics combined with secondary ion mass spectrometry (SILK-SIMS; patent pending). This is being applied to a whole host of biological tissues, both animal and human.

1. Cosmogenic Ages of Presolar SiC Grains


The Solar System is 4.568 billion years old, as determined from analyses of calcium-aluminum inclusions in the Allende and Vigarano meteorites. Presolar grains are older than this; however, how much older has not been known until recently. With collaborators, I have been able to determine the amount of time these grains spent in the interstellar medium by analyzing the Li, Ne, and He isotopic compositions of SiC grains. These grains experienced ionizing radiation in the form of galactic cosmic rays, of whose product we can measure in the lab. For the first time, the cosmic ray exposure ages of individual grains can be determined; we now know we have laboratory samples that formed 100s of Ma to ~1000 Ma before the formation of the Solar System. No other material in the Solar System is this old, and this information helps us better understand the temporal history of the star-forming region in which the Early Solar System was birthed. Also, we have a better idea of whether the gravitational collapse of the protoplanetary disk was caused by a nearby supernova or, possibly, multiple nearby massive giant branch stars.


  1. Gyngard, F., Amari, S., Zinner, E., Ott, U. (2009). Interstellar Exposure Ages of Large Presolar Sic Grains from the Murchison Meteorite. The Astrophysical Journal, 694(1), 359-366.

  2. Heck, P.R., Gyngard, F., Ott, U., Meier, M.M.M., Avila, J.N., Amari, S., Zinner, E., Lewis, R., Baur, H., Wieler, R. (2009). Interstellar Residence Times of Presolar SiC Dust Grains from the Murchison Carbonaceous Meteorite. The Astrophysical Journal, 698 (2), 1155-1164.

  3. Ott, U., Heck, P. R., Gyngard, F., Wieler, R., Wrobel, F., Amari, S., Zinner, E. (2009) He and Ne Ages of Large Presolar Silicon Carbide Grains: Solving the Recoil Problem. Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia, 26(3), 297-302.

  4. Gyngard, F., Amari, S., Zinner, E., Ott, U. (2009) Cosmic-Ray Exposure Ages of Large Presolar SiC Grains. Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia, 26(3), 278-283.


2. Development of NanoSIMS Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry Techniques


I have been directly involved in the development of NanoSIMS measurements of the isotopes of the following elements: H, Li, B, Be, C, O, F, N, Mg, Al, Si, S, K, Ca, Ti, Fe, Ni, and Ba. Also, I have developed automated measurement techniques through the combination of software and instrumental modifications to perform high-throughput isotopic analyses of large sample areas. These technical advances have allowed for the relatively efficient discovery of ultra-rare dust grains (abundance of at most 1 in a 1000), which push the boundaries of current models of stellar nucelosynthesis – without these automated techniques, the identification of these grains would take years as opposed to days or weeks. Also, each elemental system is unique; the development of appropriate samples, measurement conditions, and specific data analysis requires time. My lab has pioneered these protocols over the past decade, applying them to both terrestrial and extraterrestrial samples.


  1. Gyngard, F., Zinner, E., Nittler, L.R., Morgand, A., Stadermann, F.J., Hynes, K.M. (2010). Automated NanoSIMS Measurements of Spinel Stardust from the Murray Meteorite. The Astrophysical Journal, 717(1), 107-120.

  2. Marhas, K.K., Amari, S., Gyngard, F., Zinner, E., Gallino, R. (2008). Iron and Nickel Isotopic Ratios in Presolar SiC Grains. The Astrophysical Journal, 689(1), 622-645.

  3. Gyngard, F., Nittler, L., Zinner, E., Jose, J. (2010). Oxygen Rich Stardust Grains from Novae. Proceedings of Science, 11th Symposium on Nuclei in the Cosmos.

3. Investigations into the Heavy Element Isotopic Compositions in Presolar SiC Grains


With collaborators at the Australian National University, the University of Chicago, and Argonne National Laboratory, we have developed novel techniques in order to measure the isotopic compositions of both light and heavy-elements in grains ~1 micron or less in size. With resonance ion mass spectrometry, at Argonne and the University of Chicago, we can selectively ionize all the ions of a given element and avoid any possible isobaric interferences, which would be impossible to eliminate with conventional SIMS techniques. At the Australian Nation University, we are developing techniques to measure uranium, thorium, and lead isotopes in order to directly determine the ages of presolar grains, similar to what is done for minerals of zircon, which are used to establish the geological formation timeline of the earth.


  1. Avila, J.N., Ireland, T.R., Gyngard, F., Zinner, E., Mallmann, G., Lugaro, M., Holden, P., Amari, S. (2013). Ba Isotopic Compositions in Stardust SiC Grains from the Murchison Meteorite: Insights into the Origins of Large SiC Grains. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 120, 628-647.

  2. Avila, J.N., Lugaro, M., Gyngard, F., Zinner, E., Cristallo, S., Holden, P., Rauscher, T. (2012). Europium S-Process Signature at Close-to-Solar Metallicity in Stardust SiC Grains from Asymptotic Giant Branch Stars. The Astrophysical Journal Letters, 768(1), 1-7.

  3. Liu, N., Savina, M.R., Gallino, R., Davis, A.M., Bisterzo, S., Gyngard, F., Kappelar, F., Cristallo, S., Dauphas, N., Pellin, M.J., Dillmann, I. (2015). Correlated Strontium and Barium Isotopic Compositions of Acid-Cleaned Single Mainstream Silicon Carbides from Murchison. The Astrophysical Journal, 803(1), 23.

  4. Barzyk, J.G., Savina, M.R., Davis, A.M., Gallino, R., Gyngard, F., Amari, S., Zinner, E., Pellin, M.J., Lewis, R.S., Clayton, R.N. (2007). Constraining the 13C Neutron Source in AGB Stars Through Isotopic Analysis of Trace Elements in Presolar SiC. The Astrophysical Journal, 41(11), 1103-1119.


4. Studies of Sub-Cellular Histology Using Isotope Labeling of Biological Tissue

From mice ovaries to baby hearts to Alzheimer's patients, collaborators and I have imaged and calculated the D/H ratios and N-15 content of labeled tissue. Some of the results can be found below.

  1. Gyngard F, Trakimas L, Steinhauser ML. High-Fidelity Quantification of Cell Cycle Activity with Multi-Isotope Imaging Mass Spectrometry. In: Cardiac Regeneration. Humana, New York, NY ; 2021. pp. 257–268.

  2. Gyngard F, Steinhauser ML. Biological explorations with nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry. Journal of analytical atomic spectrometry. 2019;34 (8) :1534–1545.

  3. Narendra DP, Guillermier C, Gyngard F, Huang X, Ward ME, Steinhauser ML. Coupling APEX labeling to imaging mass spectrometry of single organelles reveals heterogeneity in lysosomal protein turnover. Journal of Cell Biology. 2020;219 (1).

  4. Wildburger NC, Gyngard F, Guillermier C, Patterson BW, Elbert D, Mawuenyega KG, Schneider T, Green K, Roth R, Schmidt RE, et al. Amyloid-β plaques in clinical Alzheimer’s disease brain incorporate stable isotope tracer in vivo and exhibit nanoscale heterogeneity. Frontiers in neurology. 2018;9 :169.

  5. Vujic A, Lerchenmüller C, Mittag S, Wang A, Rabolli C, Gyngard F, Guillermier C, Steinhauser ML, Rosenzweig A, Lee RT. Exercise-Induced New Cardiomyocyte Formation in the Aged Mammalian Heart. Nature Communications. 2018;140 (Suppl\_1) :A14692–A14692.

Research Grants

NASA             Gyngard (PI)                                                                                                  2013-2017

“Correlated Studies of Isotopes, Chronologies, and Microstructures of Stardust SiC grains”

The goal of this study was to determine the cosmic ray exposure ages of dust grains found in meteorites that existed before the formation of the Solar System, using correlated multi-isotope and microstructure techniques.

Role: Principal Investigator


NASA             Floss (PI)                                                                                                        2014-2017

“Isotopic and Elemental Characterization of Presolar Silicate Grains”

The goal of this study was to determine the isotopic and elemental compositions of isotopically anomalous silicate grains found in a suite of meteorite matrices with different metamorphic alteration histories, in order to constrain the environment in which the building blocks of the Solar System formed.

Role: Co-Investigator


BJHF/ICTS Clinical and Translation Funding Program            Bateman & Wildberger (PIs)  2016-2017

“Stable Isotope Labeling and Quantitative Mass Spectrometry Imaging of Amyloid-beta Deposition in Human Alzheimer’s Disease”


Bright Focus Foundation                    Bateman (PI)                           2016-2019

The goal of this and the above mentioned study is to isotopically label hospice patients with 13C and/or 15N, subsequent to their death, attempt to see its spatial distribution, with NanoSIMS imaging of ultra-microtomed brain thin-sections. We have already analyzed the first plaque ever for C isotopes, and are developing novel techniques to increase sensitivity and the ability to see tissue structure by measuring C and N isotopes as CN molecules.


NASA             Floss (PI)                                                                                                        04/01/12-03/31/16

“Advancement of Microanalytical Techniques for the Characterization of Returned Samples”

The goal of this project is to develop analytical protocols and sample curation techniques for diverse extraterrestrial materials returned by NASA sample return missions, both ongoing ones (e.g.,GENESIS and STARDUST) and potential future ones (e.g., OSIRIS-REX and Hayabusa 2).

Role: Co-Investigator


NASA             Zinner (PI)                                                                                                                  04/04/11-04/03/14

“Laboratory Studies of Supernova Grains”

The specific aim of this work was to chemically isolate and isotopically analyze large presolar grains with a variety of techniques, including NanoSIMS, RIMS, and noble gas mass spectrometers.

Role: Co-Investigator


NASA             Floss (PI)                                                                                                                    04/20/10/-4/19/14

“Circumstellar and Interstellar Components in Primitive Extraterrestrial Materials”

This work established a baseline for the alteration (both aqueous and thermal) histories of materials in meteorites by using correlated Auger spectroscopy, TEM, and NanoSIMS.

Role: Co-Investigator


NASA             Floss (PI)                                                                                                                    04/01/10/-3/31/13

“Characterization of Silicate Stardust Grains in Primitive Meteorites”

Silicate stardust grains are tracers of the history of the building blocks of the Early Solar System; this work increased the amount of material analyzed and used newly discovered, primitive samples to expand our understanding of the constituents of the protoplanetary disk from which planetary bodies formed.

Role: Co-Investigator


NASA             Bernatowicz (PI)                                                                                             04/12/10-04/11/13

“The Formation and Evolution of Carbonaceous Stardust”

This work was composed of microstructural investigations of carbonaceous grains (i.e., graphite and SiC) using combined ultra-microtomy, TEM, SEM-EDX, and NanoSIMS, in order to understand the crystallographic and mineralogical histories of condensation processes in asymptotic giant branch stars.

Role: Co-Investigator


Projects in Progress

  • Continued investigations into the ages of presolar SiC grains using combined He, Li, and Ne isotopic measurements, as well as, continuing to pursue the feasibility of applying the U-Th-Pb system.

  • Trying to measure multiple isotopic systems in supernova grains, with a combination of NanoSIMS and RIMS.

  • Performing Monte Carlo simulations with the entire presolar grain data set to attempt to refine the estimate of the number of stars that contributed to the presolar grain population, and possibly to the distribution of types of stars that contributed to the protoplanetary disk.

  • Adapting and improving automatic grain measurement software on the NanoSIMS, in order to more efficiently and easily identify exotic and rare grains.

  • Continued isotopic studies of C-13 and N-15 labeled brain tissue to see the distribution of Aβ leucine in plaques, which are responsible for Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Measurement of C in steel samples of different compositions for materials science division of General Motors, in order to determine how their structure has been altered by stress and strain.


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