Forums

2012 Oct 17

How to Identify an Inhabited Exoplanet

4:00pm

Location: 

Geo Museum, 24 Oxford Street, Haller Hall, Rm. 102, Cambridge, MA

Sara Seager (MIT - Dept. of Earth, Atmospheric & Planetary Sciences)

Biosignature gases are gases emitted by life that can accumulate in an exoplanet atmosphere to remotely detectable levels by future space telescopes. Until now, the dominant focus has been on Earth-like planets, because Earth is the only known planet with life. Yet exoplanets are astonishingly diverse—in terms of their masses, densities, orbits, and host star types—and this diversity motivates a radical extension of what conventionally constitutes a habitable planet. By building a general...

Read more about How to Identify an Inhabited Exoplanet
2012 Nov 28

Cell wall deficient (L-form) bacteria: mechanism of proliferation and implications for the emergence of cellular life

4:00pm

Location: 

Geo Museum, 24 Oxford Street, Haller Hall, Rm. 102, Cambridge, MA

Jeff Errington (Newcastle University - Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology) 

The cell wall is a defining structure of bacterial cells. It provides a protective outer shell and is crucial in pathogenesis as well as the target for important antibiotics. Synthesis of the wall is organised by cytoskeletal proteins homologous to tubulin (FtsZ) and actin (MreB). Because all major branches of the bacterial lineage possess both wall and cytoskeleton, these were probably present in the last common ancestor of the bacteria. L-forms are unusual...

Read more about Cell wall deficient (L-form) bacteria: mechanism of proliferation and implications for the emergence of cellular life
2012 Dec 19

Do cells know physics? From universal cellular micromechanics to peculiar walking strategies

4:00pm

Location: 

Geo Museum, 24 Oxford Street, Haller Hall, Rm. 102, Cambridge, MA

Bartosz Grzybowski (Northwestern University - Dept. of Chemical & Biological Engineering) 

One of the greatest mysteries of life is how a collection of molecules enclosed by a molecular sac self-organizes into a complex system capable of maintaining structural integrity, sensing the environment, propelling itself, self-replicating, and more. In my talk I will illustrate how a combination of cell biology and physics can offer some unique insights into the static organization and dynamic behaviors of cells. Accordingly, the talk will...

Read more about Do cells know physics? From universal cellular micromechanics to peculiar walking strategies
2013 Jan 23

Origins of Life Systems Chemistry

4:00pm

Location: 

Geo Museum, 24 Oxford Street, Haller Hall, Rm. 102, Cambridge, MA

John Sutherland (Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology - Cambridge, UK) 

The lecture will cover recent advances in systems chemistry syntheses of the informational, catalytic and compartment–forming molecules thought necessary for the emergence of life.

2013 Feb 20

Curiosity: First 180 sols operations on the surface of Mars

4:00pm

Location: 

Geo Museum, 24 Oxford Street, Haller Hall, Rm. 102, Cambridge, MA

Roger Summons (MIT - Dept. of Earth, Atmospheric & Planetary Sciences) 

The talk will provide a general overview of the mission and the first results.

2013 Mar 13

Mineral Surfaces as Evolutionary Stress and Prebiotic Enzymes for Protocell Survival and Trans-Membrane Energy Transduction

4:00pm

Location: 

Geo Museum, 24 Oxford Street, Haller Hall, Rm. 102, Cambridge, MA

Nita Sahai (University of Akron - Dept. of Polymer Science)

Minerals, because of their reactivity and ubiquity, likely contributed to the transformation from prebiotic geochemistry to biochemistry. We propose two central hypothesis: that mineral surfaces acted as (1) an “evolutionary selection stress” in selecting lipid or amphiphile membrane compositions that were stable (survival of the fittest protocells) and (2) as “prebiotic enzymes” for photocatalyzed trans-membrane energy transduction in the emergence of metabolism. We use phospholipid and...

Read more about Mineral Surfaces as Evolutionary Stress and Prebiotic Enzymes for Protocell Survival and Trans-Membrane Energy Transduction
2013 Apr 17

Physical and Chemical Models for the Origin of Biological Homochirality

4:00pm

Location: 

Geo Museum, 24 Oxford Street, Haller Hall, Rm. 102, Cambridge, MA

Donna Blackmond (Professor of Chemistry - The Scripps Research Institute)

The property of chirality has fascinated scientists and laymen alike since Pasteur’s first painstaking separation of the enantiomorphic crystals of a tartrate salt over 150 years ago. Chiral molecules – nonsuperimposable forms that are mirror images of one another, as are left and right hands – in living organisms in Nature exist almost exclusively as single enantiomers, as exemplified by D-sugars and L-amino acids. Single chirality is critical for molecular recognition and...

Read more about Physical and Chemical Models for the Origin of Biological Homochirality
2013 May 15

Where are the boundaries of the Habitable Zone?

4:00pm

Location: 

Geo Museum, 24 Oxford Street, Haller Hall, Rm. 102, Cambridge, MA

James Kasting (Professor of Geosciences & Meteorology - Pennsylvania State University) 

NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope has been in operation for more than 4 years, and its dataset on transiting exoplanets is becoming more and more complete. It is now becoming feasible to make estimates for Eta_Earth—the fraction of Sun-like stars that have at least one rocky planet within their habitable zone. The habitable zone, as conventionally defined, is the region around a star where liquid water can exist on a planet’s surface....

Read more about Where are the boundaries of the Habitable Zone?

Pages