Origin of Life
We simply do not know where, when, or how life originated. Addressing this gap in our knowledge is one of the greatest challenges of modern science. Much emphasis has been placed on constructing prebiotically (i.e., prior to the origin of life) plausible synthetic pathways to molecules such as RNA, amino acids, or lipids. However, molecules do not make life – reactions between molecules do! But even a small set of reaction types and starting compounds can produce a combinatorial explosion of products and intermediates, tending to yield unproductive, intractable mixtures in the absence of an organising force. Thus, the self-organisation of reaction pathways from abiotic (i.e., non-living) precursors must have been a vital component in the transition from inanimate to animate matter. We focus on the role of dynamic reaction environments to organize and constrain chemical reaction networks, and aim to discover the onset of chemical evolution.
Keywords: organic synthesis, reaction networks, mass spectrometry, analytical chemistry
Key publications: J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2019, 141 , 8289-8295; Nature Nanotechnology 2016, 11, 585-592