About the Consortium

The past few decades have taught us that the most profound questions in science demand interdisciplinary approaches to both theoretical and experimental research.  Our Graduate Consortium is designed to provide graduate students the opportunity to complement and strengthen their through diverse experiences in the broad range of origins of life disciplines.  Our key goals are to instill in our students an enduring commitment to interdisciplinary collaborations and to equip them with the skills to excel especially where the boundaries between disciplines are porous.

An essential feature of the consortium model for graduate training is flexibility.  Participating students in different programs/departments at Harvard will begin participating in origins-related activities at the point in their studies that best fits their individual program’s requirements.  In this way, each student can take advantage of the Consortium’s training experience within an integrated approach to existing departmental curriculum and the overall requirements of each graduate program.  Consortium faculty and mentors will advise and assist students throughout their program in taking maximum advantage of the Consortium’s courses, laboratory research, student led activities and field research opportunities, as well as opportunities, conferences, etc. outside of the Consortium.

Background: The Origins of Life Initiative at Harvard

Research into the origins of life is, in scientific time, a relatively new approach to understanding the emergence of life from basic chemistry constrained by initial planetary conditions.  The Harvard Origins of Life Initiative was established in 2006 to encourage cross-faculty collaboration and to engage Harvard undergraduate and graduate students in interdisciplinary origins of life research in the field’s formative years.

Today our Initiative is currently the leading center for this research and draws on almost all of Harvard’s science enterprise to accomplish our goals.  Our faculty researchers, connected by a fascination with the big questions in origins of life science, represent a broad range of disciplines, from  astrophysics to prebiotic chemistry, from biochemistry to applied physics, from geophysics to paleontology, from planetary sciences to genetics, and many other scientific fields (visit the People page on this site for a complete list of our members).

The Initiative's faculty Council (see our People page) advises the director in charting the intellectual course of the Initiative.  Within this collaboration, undergraduate and graduate students tackle complex problems in the labs of faculty and senior researchers. Postdoctoral fellows make the most of our faculty’s access to state of the art experimental and observational facilities. All of our approximately 150 faculty, fellow and student members share their work with their colleagues in other disciplines and departments, seeking deeper connections through an understanding others’ work.