Events & Seminars > Event Details


4:00 pm
Room 304, Chemistry Building

The Origin of Cellular Life


Professor Jack Szostak
Harvard University

Hosted by: Professor Sid Hecht

The complexity of modern biological life has long made it difficult to understand how life could emerge spontaneously from the chemistry of the early earth.  In an effort to discover plausible pathways for the transition from chemical evolution to Darwinian evolution, we are attempting to synthesize extremely simple artificial cells.  I will present recent experimental progress towards the development and integration of the two key components of such a protocell, namely a self-replicating nucleic acid genome, and a self-replicating cell membrane.

Dr. Szostak is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University, and the Alex Rich Distinguished Investigator in the Dept. of Molecular Biology and the Center for Computational and Integrative Biology at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Szostak’s early research on telomere structure and function, and the role of telomere maintenance in preventing cellular senescence was recognized by the 2006 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award and the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, shared with Drs. Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol Greider. In the 1990s Dr. Szostak and his colleagues developed in vitro selection as a tool for the isolation of functional RNA, DNA and protein molecules from large pools of random sequences. Dr. Szostak’s current research interests are in the laboratory synthesis of self-replicating systems and the origin of life.