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2018 May 16

Origins of Life Initiative / Microbial Sciences Initiative Joint Seminar - Professor Antonio Lazcano (National Autonomous University of Mexico) - " The genome of the Last Common Ancestor: il catalogo è questo"

4:00pm to 5:30pm

Location: 

Haller Hall, Geological Museum, 24 Oxford Street
Abstract: 

Two decades ago Fox and Woese demonstrated that the evolutionary comparison of 16/18S rRNA led to a trifucated unrooted tree that demonstrated that all living forms groups all living forms in one of three major phylogenetic lineages derived from a common ancestor. Bioinformatic analysis of completely sequenced cellular genomes from these three major kingdoms have been used to define the set of the most most conserved protein-encoding sequences to characterize the gene...

Read more about Origins of Life Initiative / Microbial Sciences Initiative Joint Seminar - Professor Antonio Lazcano (National Autonomous University of Mexico) - " The genome of the Last Common Ancestor: il catalogo è questo"
2018 Feb 21

Professor Jeremy England (MIT) - " Mechanisms of Life-like Fine-tuning in Driven Matter"

4:00pm to 5:30pm

Location: 

Haller Hall, Geological Museum, 24 Oxford Street

Abstract

When we say a collection of matter has a form that is well-suited to a particular function, we are claiming implicitly that the particular arrangement of matter in question is much better at accomplishing some task than a random rearrangement would be.  In the biological context, we see many examples of form that supports function, and we very often seek to explain the exquisite non-randomness of structure as the result of successive rounds of self-replication, mutation, and selection.  One may also ask, however, what physical mechanisms may still give...

Read more about Professor Jeremy England (MIT) - " Mechanisms of Life-like Fine-tuning in Driven Matter"
2017 Dec 13

Professor Stephen Squyres (Cornell) - "The Ancient Habitability of Mars: Science Results from the Mars Exploration Rover Mission"

4:00pm to 5:30pm

Location: 

Haller Hall, Geological Museum, 24 Oxford Street

Abstract:

The rovers Spirit and Opportunity touched down on Mars in January 2004 and have been conducting extensive observations with the Athena science payload. Together the two rovers have traversed more than 50 km. 

Spirit, located on the floor of Gusev crater, investigated basaltic plains, as well as older materials in the Columbia Hills. The rocks of the Columbia Hills are granular and have undergone significant alteration by water. They appear to be largely a mixture of altered impact ejecta and explosive volcanic materials. ...

Read more about Professor Stephen Squyres (Cornell) - "The Ancient Habitability of Mars: Science Results from the Mars Exploration Rover Mission"
2017 Oct 18

Professor Sijbren Otto (Stratingh Institute) - "Can We Synthesize Life In The Lab? How Chemistry May Become Biology"

4:00pm to 5:30pm

Location: 

Haller Hall, Geological Museum, 24 Oxford Street

Abstract:

 

How the immense complexity of living organisms has arisen is one of the most intriguing questions in contemporary science. We have started to explore experimentally how organization and function can emerge from complex molecular networks in aqueous solution [1]. We focus on networks of molecules that can interconvert, to give mixtures that can change their composition in response to external or internal stimuli. Molecular...

Read more about Professor Sijbren Otto (Stratingh Institute) - "Can We Synthesize Life In The Lab? How Chemistry May Become Biology"
2017 Nov 15

Dr. Robert Hazen (Carnegie) - "Big-Data Astrobiology: Exploring the co-evolution of the geosphere and biosphere"

4:00pm to 5:30pm

Location: 

Haller Hall, Geological Museum, 24 Oxford Street
Abstract: 
 

"Large and growing deep-time data resources in mineralogy, geochemistry, paleobiology, petrology, tectonics, and proteomics facilitate statistical exploration and visual representation of large-scale patterns in planetary evolution. Of special note are recent applications of network analysis: visually...

Read more about Dr. Robert Hazen (Carnegie) - "Big-Data Astrobiology: Exploring the co-evolution of the geosphere and biosphere"
2017 May 17

Professor Greg Fournier (MIT) - "Between RNA World and LUCA: Physiological, Ecological, and Phylogenetic Inference "

4:00pm to 6:30pm

Location: 

Haller Hall, Geological Museum, 24 Oxford Street

Abstract: 

Origin of Life studies primarily consist of two sets of inferences:  bottom-up, which infer plausible scenarios of abiogenesis given our understanding of planetary, geological, and chemical processes, and top-down, which reconstruct the evolutionary history of life for clues to its earliest states.  A discontinuity exists between these narratives, however, as deterministic physiochemical processes must give way to historic evolutionary processes before the common ancestry of any of the genetic lineages upon which top-down approaches rely. ...

Read more about Professor Greg Fournier (MIT) - "Between RNA World and LUCA: Physiological, Ecological, and Phylogenetic Inference "
2017 Apr 19

Professor Jeffrey Linsky (University of Colorado Boulder), "Activity of exoplanet host stars: phenomena, physical processes, and effects on exoplanet atmospheres"

4:00pm to 5:30pm

Location: 

Geological Museum, Haller Hall, 24 Oxford Street

Abstract:

I will describe various aspects of stellar activity that control the environment of exoplanets, produce photochemical reactions in their atmospheres, and drive mass loss. The fundamental drivers of stellar active phenomena are strong magnetic fields for which field strengths can be measured by Zeeman broadening of absorption lines in stellar spectra, and the large scale magnetic geometry and properties that can be measured with Zeeman Doppler imaging techniques. Magnetic heating processes produce warm chromospheres and hot coronae. ...

Read more about Professor Jeffrey Linsky (University of Colorado Boulder), "Activity of exoplanet host stars: phenomena, physical processes, and effects on exoplanet atmospheres"
2017 Mar 02

Dr. Pascale Ehrenfreund, "Space Exploration of our Solar System: Organics for life and Habitability"

4:00pm to 6:30pm

Location: 

Geological Museum, Haller Hall, 24 Oxford Street

 

Abstract:

The search for organic material and biosignatures in our solar system is a highly complex endeavor. For life to develop, chemical raw materials are necessary, hence space missions that investigate the composition of comets and asteroids and in particular their organic content provide major opportunities to determine the prebiotic reservoirs available to the early Earth and Mars. The comet rendezvous mission Rosetta was the first spacecraft to land on a comet and thus sampling material from a cometary nucleus. Rosetta monitored the evolution of comet 67P/...

Read more about Dr. Pascale Ehrenfreund, "Space Exploration of our Solar System: Organics for life and Habitability"
2017 Jan 18

Ting Zhu, Ph.D. (Tsinghau University) "Mirror-image genetic replication and transcription"

4:00pm to 5:30pm

Location: 

Geological Museum, Haller Hall (Room 102), 24 Oxford Street

Abstract: 

 

The overwhelmingly homochiral nature of life has left a puzzle as to whether mirror-image biological systems based on a chirally inverted version of molecular machinery could also have existed. We show that two processes in the central dogma of molecular biology, the template-directed polymerization of DNA and transcription into RNA, can be catalyzed by a chemically synthesized D-amino acid polymerase on an L-DNA template. The establishment of such molecular systems with an opposite handedness is a small step towards chemically synthesizing an alternative...

Read more about Ting Zhu, Ph.D. (Tsinghau University) "Mirror-image genetic replication and transcription"
2016 Dec 14

Tanja Bosak (MIT) "Mineral records of metabolisms and environmental conditions before the rise of atmospheric oxygen"

4:00pm to 5:30pm

Location: 

Geological Museum, Haller Hall (Room 102), 24 Oxford Street

Abstract:

 

Minerals, textures and shapes of sedimentary rocks may record metabolisms and environmental conditions that were present before the rise of atmospheric oxygen. For example, dolomite does not preserve fine microbial textures in modern seawater, but it commonly did so in the past. Furthermore, manganese oxides are only known to form in the presence of oxygen, so these minerals are used as proxies for the past presence of oxygen or oxygen-producing organisms. To better interpret the records of these minerals, we grew anoxygenic benthic photosynthetic microbial...

Read more about Tanja Bosak (MIT) "Mineral records of metabolisms and environmental conditions before the rise of atmospheric oxygen"
2016 Oct 19

Origins Forum - Nicholas Hud (Georgia Tech) "Seeking a plausible prebiotic solution for the origin of RNA"

4:00pm

Location: 

Haller Hall (Room 102), Geological Museum, 24 Oxford Street

Abstract:

The RNA World hypothesis, which posits that RNA existed before the advent of DNA and proteins, remains a popular and influential hypothesis. However, despite decades of effort, origins of life researchers are still lacking a plausible prebiotic synthesis for RNA. Persistent challenges include nucleobase selection, nucleoside bond formation, and nucleotide polymerization. We are investigating the possibility that RNA was preceded by a polymer that would have assembled more easily than RNA (i.e., pre-RNA), being comprised of different nucleobases and, perhaps, a different...

Read more about Origins Forum - Nicholas Hud (Georgia Tech) "Seeking a plausible prebiotic solution for the origin of RNA"

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