Chalk Talk - "Towards controlled formation of amphiphilic molecules: insights from inorganic chemistry" (Jan Szymanski - Harvard)


Thursday, April 3, 2014, 9:00am to 10:00am


Naito Laboratory, Room 205 12 Oxford Street

Jan Szymanski
Postdoctoral Fellow - Dept. of Earth & Planetary Sciences (Perez-Mercader Group)

For each of the three most important characteristics of extant living systems (membrane boundary, metabolism, information-carrying polymers), there exists an origins-of-life school of thought positing that one of them preceded the others along the path from non-life to life. The interconnectedness makes, however, exploring any of the three in the absence of the rest extremely difficult. In this talk, I am going to present some results regarding looking instead at a pair of properties, namely membrane and metabolism, working in concert.

The experimental approach involves formation of amphiphilic block copolymers from simpler precursors catalyzed by a transition metal-based redox pair. This particular pair has an added benefit of also being a catalyst for an inorganic chemical reaction exhibiting some of the properties commonly associated with living systems, such as periodic oscillations in reactant concentrations, self-organization and sustained far-from-equilibrium behavior in the presence of appropriate gradients in the surrounding medium. Although both chemical subsystems are strictly inorganic, the potential interaction between them could offer insights into prebiotic membrane formation.

See also: Chalk Talks