Andrew Knoll, Fisher Professor of Natural History and Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University, has been awarded the 2014 Oparin Medal by the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life (ISSOL). He received the award in a ceremony in July at the Origins 2014 conference in Nara, Japan. Dr. Jack Szostak presented the award to Knoll “in recognition of his contributions to our understanding of the evolution of life on early Earth and to elucidating past environments on our neighboring planet, Mars.”
Knoll is also the Curator of the Paleobotanical Collections in the Harvard University Herbaria. A Precambrian paleobiologist by training, he is also a geologist/geochemist who has focused much of his attention on the Proterozoic Eon, between approximately 2.5 and 0.5 billion years ago. As a member of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover team, he has also helped find evidence of liquid water and its properties on early Mars – key factors in evaluating its potential for habitability. Knoll serves on the Faculty Council of the Harvard University Origins of Life Initiative.
The Oparin and Urey Medals, which are awarded at alternate ISSOL Conferences, are the highest honors bestowed by ISSOL, the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life – The International Astrobiology Society. The Oparin Award is named for Alexander Ivanovich Oparin (1894-1980), a Soviet biochemist and author notable for theories about the origin of life that helped inform the Miller-Urey experiments in 1953.