The Big Bang produced only hydrogen, helium, and trace amounts of lithium. Everything else - from the carbon in our cells and the oxygen we breathe to the silicon in our computers and the iron in our infrastructure - was synthesized in stars through the nuclear reactions they facilitate. This is what Carl Sagan meant in his famous quote "We are made of star-stuff."
My research sits at the intersection of astrophysics and
nuclear physics, seeking to understand which nuclear reactions
occur when, where, and under what astrophysical conditions.
By their very nature, the nuclear reactions powering stars and
occurring in the wake of supernovae change the chemical
composition of the material.
This material is ultimately expelled as gas back to the host
galaxy's interstellar medium, where it can be incorporated into
the next generation of stars and planets that will condense out
of the gas.