Photo of Prof. Wilkins, a white woman with brown hair (worn down) wearing black thick-rimmed glasses. Behind her is a Dickinson College campus building and a black lamp post with a red Dickinson banner. Dr. Olivia Harper Wilkins is an astrochemist interested in disentangling the evolution of chemical complexity that emerges alongside star and planet formation. In her research, she uses both telescope observations and laboratory experiments. She is especially interested in using isotopologues to study the chemical processes that yield organics in the interstellar medium and solar system small bodies such as comets. Prof. Wilkins is also an artist who uses different creative media to communicate science within the astrochemistry community and for the general public.

After graduating from Dickinson with a B.S. in Chemistry and Mathematics from Dickinson in 2015, Wilkins spent a year in Germany as a Fulbright Research Fellow working in the Cologne Laboratory Astrophysics Group at the Universität zu Köln. She then pursued her Ph.D. in Chemistry at Caltech, where she was an NSF Graduate Research Fellow. Her thesis, “High-Resolution Chemical Imaging of Extreme Interstellar Environments,” focused on high-resolution radio telescope observations of methanol isotopologues in the Orion KL nebula, as well as identifying new chemical laboratories in the Milky Way’s “molecular ring” region, using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). After an observation-focused Ph.D. journey, Dr. Wilkins went back into the lab as a NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP) Fellow at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, where she worked on the SubLIME (Sublimation of Laboratory Ice Millimeter/submillimeter Experiment) project to study the UV photochemistry and sublimation of interstellar and cometary ice analogues. Dr. Wilkins wrote and illustrated Astrochemistry for the American Chemical Society’s In Focus series (2021), is a CAS Future Leader (2022), and received the American Chemical Society’s Astrochemistry Subdivision Dissertation Award (2024).

Outside of Dickinson, Prof. Wilkins is a writer for the Graduate and Postdoctoral Chemist (GP Chemist) magazine by the American Chemical Society (ACS), an associate member of the ACS Younger Chemists Committee (YCC), a Letters to a Pre-Scientist pen pal, and part of the inaugural cohort of Lead Ambassadors for NASA’s Science Explorer (SciX).