University of Cambridge researchers offer their collective intelligence on the "Origins of Life in Washington DC.
Photo: Dr Emily Mitchell, Assistant Professor and Curator of Invertebrates in the Department of Zoology, Cambridge and previous Henslow Fellow of CPS. Photo: Graham CopeKoga
Dr Emily Mitchell, Assistant Professor and Curator of Invertebrates in the Department of Zoology, Cambridge and previous Henslow Fellow together with Cambridge Nobel Laureate Professor Didier Queloz in the Department of Physics at The Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge have been talking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Meeting in Washington DC on the Origins of Life: Humanity’s Quest to Discover the Nature of Life in the Universe.Dr Mitchell is co-director of the Leverhulme Centre for Life in the Universe, along with Professor Queloz and an ecological time traveler. She uses field-based laser-scanning and statistical mathematical ecology on 580-million-year-old fossils of deep-sea organisms to determine the driving factors that influence the macro-evolutionary patterns of life on Earth. Speaking during ETH Zurich’s Origins of Life session at the AAAS, Mitchell took participants back in time to 4-billion years ago when Earth’s early atmosphere - devoid of oxygen and steeped in methane – showed its first signs of microbial life. She spoke about how life survives in extreme environments and then evolves offering potential Astro-biological insights into the origins of life elsewhere in the universe.“As we begin to investigate other planets, through the Mars missions,” Mitchell says, “biosignatures could reveal whether or not the origin of life itself and its evolution on Earth is just a happy accident or part of the fundamental nature of the universe, with all its biological and ecological complexities.”
“We are living in an extraordinary moment in history,” says Didier Queloz, who directs ETH Zurich’s Centre for Origin and Prevalence of Life and the Leverhulme Centre for Life in the Universe at Cambridge. While still a doctoral student Queloz was the first to discover an exoplanet - a planet orbiting a solar-type star outside of Earth’s solar system. A discovery for which he would later receive a Nobel Prize in physics. Within a generation, scientists have now discovered more than 5,000 exoplanets and predict the potential existence of trillions more in the Milky Way galaxy alone. Each discovery inspires more questions than answers about how and why life emerged on Earth and whether it exists elsewhere in the universe. Technological advancements, such as the James Webb Space Telescope and interplanetary missions to Mars, accelerate access to an overwhelming volume of new observations and data, such that it will take the convergence of a multidisciplinary network to understand the emergence of life in the universe.
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting in Washington DC:Saturday, 4 March 2023
1:00 - 2:00 PM US ET
Washington Convention Center, Room 145 (Street Level)
801 Mt Vernon Pl NW, Washington, DC 20001
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Cambridge University Engineering Department. Constance Tipper Lecture Theatre.