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Conference Program
 
Origin of Life
(This meeting is currently known as "Origins of Life")
January 20-25, 2008
Crowne Plaza
Ventura, CA
Chair:
Robert M. Hazen

Vice Chair:
George E. Fox

Related Meeting Information
The Origin of Life Gordon Research Conference was held in conjunction with the Origin of Life Gordon Research Seminar. Please refer to the Origin of Life GRS web page for more information.

The study of life's origins on Earth, and possibly elsewhere in the universe, requires an interdisciplinary approach that integrates experimental data and theoretical models from Earth, life, chemical and space sciences. This year's conference will underscore that rich diversity of perspectives, with an emphasis on efforts to understand the ancient transition from geochemistry to biochemistry. Accordingly, the first three days of the conference will highlight recent advances in resolving the key debates regarding life's chemical origins: Did a self-replicating cycle or network of molecules (i.e., metabolism) come first, or was the first life form a self-replicating, information-rich RNA-like polymer? We will also explore the related question: Are the "pioneer metabolism theory" and the "prebiotic soup theory" mutually exclusive, or are there useful hybrid approaches to life's origins? Solutions to these problems are informed by bottom-up studies of prebiotic chemical processes and top-down studies of the most primitive biochemical and genetic features of living and fossil organisms. Thursday's sessions will focus on the essential mechanisms of membrane and polymer self-assembly, as well as the latest efforts to synthesize cellular life, with a keynote address by Lasker Prize winner Jack Szostak of Harvard University. The conference will conclude with a frontier session on alternative biochemistries, especially as they relate to known environments on other planets and moons. Taken together, these sessions will provide a dynamic (and possibly contentious) state-of-the-art summary of the field.

Immediately preceding the GRC, on Saturday, January 19, there will be a Gordon Research Seminar (GRS) for young investigators. Partial travel and registration support for both the GRC and the GRS will be provided to all graduate students and postdocs who participate as presenters in the Gordon Research Seminar. For more information, please go to the 2008 Origin of Life GRS web site.


Contributors
With thanks for the generous contributions provided by:

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
NASA Astrobiology Institute

SUNDAY
4:00 pm - 9:00 pmArrival and Check-in
6:00 pmDinner
7:30 pm - 7:50 pmWelcome / Introductory Comments by GRC Site Staff
7:50 pm - 9:30 pm From Scenarios to Schemas: Robust Models for Life’s Origins
Discussion Leader: Robert Hazen (Carnegie Institution)
7:50 pm - 8:25 pmShelley Copley (Univ. of Colorado)
"False Dichotomies and the Origin of Life"
8:25 pm - 8:45 pm Discussion
8:45 pm - 9:15 pmJohn Baross (Univ. of Washington)
"History of the Major Ideas for the Origin of Life on Earth"
9:15 pm - 9:30 pm Discussion
9:30 pm Wine reception
MONDAY
7:30 am - 8:30 amBreakfast
9:00 am - 12:30 pm Real World Geochemical Complexity: Interfaces, Gradients and Cycles
Discussion Leader: John Baross (University of Washington, Seattle)
9:00 am - 9:20 amAriel Anbar (Arizona State Univ.)
"The Role of P and As: Geochemical Aspects"
9:20 am - 9:40 am Felicia Wolfe-Simon (Harvard Univ.)
"The Role of P and As: Biochemical Aspects"
9:40 am - 10:00 amDiscussion
10:00 am - 10:30 am Coffee Break / Group Photo
10:30 am - 11:00 amVictoria Orphan (Caltech)
"Microscale Biosignatures:Carbon and Sulfur Cycling in Extreme Environments"
11:00 am - 11:10 am Discussion
11:10 am - 11:40 amKevin Zahnle (NASA Ames)
"Conditions on the Early Earth"
11:40 am - 11:50 am Discussion
11:50 am - 12:20 pmMichael Russell (NASA Ames)
"The Alkaline Solution to the Emergence of Life"
12:20 pm - 12:30 pm Discussion
12:30 pmLunch
1:30 pm - 4:00 pmFree Time
4:00 pm - 6:00 pmPoster Session / Wine Mixer
6:00 pmDinner
7:30 pm - 9:30 pm Alternative Planetary Environments for Life
Discussion Leader: Dirk Schulze-Makuch (Washington State University, Pullman)
7:30 pm - 7:50 pmDirk Schulze-Makuch (Washington State)
"Venus, Mars...and What’s Life Got to Do with It?"
7:50 pm - 8:00 pm Discussion
8:00 pm - 8:20 pmDarlene Lim (NASA Ames)
"Astrobiology and Mars Analogue Research in the Canadian High Arctic"
8:20 pm - 8:30 pm Discussion
8:30 pm - 8:50 pmAthena Coustenis (Observatoire de Meudon, France)
"Exploring Titan and Enceladus for their Astrobiological Potentials"
8:50 pm - 9:00 pm Discussion
9:00 pm - 9:20 pmSteve Benner (Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, Florida)
"Chemical Constraints on the Structure of Alien Biochemistries"
9:20 pm - 9:30 pm Discussion
9:30 pmContinued informal discussion and wine at the poster session
TUESDAY
7:30 am - 8:30 amBreakfast
9:00 am - 12:30 pm Early Chemical Steps on the Road to Life’s Origins
Discussion Leader: George Cody (Carnegie Institution)
9:00 am - 9:30 amGeorge Cody (Carnegie Institution)
"Early Chemical Steps on the Road to Life’s Origins"
9:30 am - 9:45 am Discussion
9:45 am - 10:15 amEric Smith (Santa Fe Institute)
"Statistical Thinking and Plausible Theories of the Origin of Life"
10:15 am - 10:30 am Discussion
10:30 am - 11:00 am Coffee Break
11:00 am - 11:30 amShelley Copley (University of Colorado)
"The Origin of the RNA World: Co-Evolution of Genes and Metabolism"
11:30 am - 11:45 am Discussion
11:45 am - 12:15 pmSimon Nicholas Platts (Carnegie Institution)
"Discotic Polynuclear Aromatic Compounds as Mesophase Scaffolding for the Earliest Conceivable Pre-RNAs"
12:15 pm - 12:30 pm Discussion
12:30 pmLunch
1:30 pm - 4:00 pmFree Time
4:00 pm - 6:00 pmPoster Session
6:00 pmDinner
7:30 pm - 9:30 pm Metabolism First: An Abundance of Worlds
Discussion Leader: Robert Shapiro (New York University)
7:30 pm - 7:55 pmRobert Shapiro (New York University)
"A Simpler Origin of Life"
7:55 pm - 8:10 pm Discussion
8:10 pm - 8:35 pmArthur Weber (SETI Institute, NASA Ames Research Center)
"Sugar World Chemistry: Sugars as the Source of Energized Carbon for the Origin of Life"
8:35 pm - 8:50 pm Discussion
8:50 pm - 9:15 pmIrene Chen (Harvard University)
"Cell-like Behaviors of Primitive Lipid Vesicles"
9:15 pm - 9:30 pm Discussion
9:30 pmContinued informal discussion and wine at the poster session
WEDNESDAY
7:30 am - 8:30 amBreakfast
9:00 am - 12:30 pm The Legacy of Stanley Miller: Heterotrophic Origins
Discussion Leader: Jeffrey Bada (Univ. California, San Diego)
9:00 am - 9:30 amJeff Bada (University of California, San Diego)
"Stanley Miller: The Father of Prebiotic Chemistry"
9:30 am - 9:45 am Discussion
9:45 am - 10:15 amAntonio Lazcano (UNAM, Mexico City)
"Stanley Miller and the Origin of Life"
10:15 am - 10:30 am Discussion
10:30 am - 11:00 am Coffee Break
11:00 am - 11:30 amH. James Cleaves (Carnegie Institution)
"Prebiotic Synthesis in Neutral Planetary Atmospheres"
11:30 am - 11:45 am Discussion
11:45 am - 12:15 pmPeter Nielsen (Univ. of Copenhagen)
"Peptide Nucleic Acids, A Possible Beginning?"
12:15 pm - 12:30 pm Discussion
12:30 pmLunch
1:30 pm - 4:00 pmFree Time
4:00 pm - 6:00 pmPoster Session
6:00 pmDinner
7:00 pm - 7:30 pmBusiness Meeting
(Nominations for the next Vice Chair; Fill out Conference Evaluation Forms; Discuss future Site & Scheduling preferences; Election of the next Vice Chair)
7:30 pm - 8:30 pm Progress towards Synthesizing an Artificial Cell
Discussion Leader: Robert Hazen (Carnegie Institution of Washington)
7:30 pm - 8:10 pmKeynote Speaker: Jack Szostak (Harvard University and Mass General Hospital)
8:10 pm - 8:30 pm Discussion
8:30 pm - 9:30 pm Origins and Evolution of Biochemical Homochirality
Discussion Leader: Robert Hazen (Carnegie Institution of Washington)
8:30 pm - 9:10 pmDonna Blackmond (Imperial College London)
9:10 pm - 9:30 pm Discussion
9:30 pmContinued informal discussion and wine at the poster session
THURSDAY
7:30 am - 8:30 amBreakfast
9:00 am - 12:30 pm The Legacy of Leslie Orgel: The Case for the RNA World
Discussion Leader: John Sutherland (Univ. of Manchester)
9:00 am - 9:30 amJohn Sutherland (Univ. of Manchester)
"Prebiotic RNA Chemistry"
9:30 am - 9:45 am Discussion
9:45 am - 10:15 amHarry Noller (Univ. of California, Santa Cruz)
"Thoughts on the Emergence of the Ribosome from the RNA World"
10:15 am - 10:30 am Discussion
10:30 am - 11:00 am Coffee Break
11:00 am - 11:30 amReza Ghadiri (Scripps Research Institute)
"Possible Links Between RNA and Amino Acid/Peptide Chemistry"
11:30 am - 11:45 am Discussion
11:45 am - 12:15 pmRam Krishnamurthy (Scripps Research Institute)
"Alternative Heterocycles in the Search for Informational Oligomer Systems"
12:15 pm - 12:30 pm Discussion
12:30 pmLunch
1:30 pm - 4:00 pmFree Time
4:00 pm - 6:00 pmPoster Session
6:00 pmDinner
7:30 pm - 9:30 pm Reconciling the Metabolism First versus RNA World Debate
Discussion Leader: George Fox (University of Houston)
7:30 pm - 8:10 pmNigel Goldenfeld (Univ. of Illinois)
"What Does the Genetic Code Tell Us About Early Life"
8:10 pm - 8:30 pm Discussion
8:30 pm - 9:10 pmGünter von Kiedrowski (Ruhr University Bochum)
"Systems Chemistry: Looking for Origins versus the Origin of Life"
9:10 pm - 9:30 pm Discussion
FRIDAY
7:30 am - 8:30 amBreakfast
9:00 amDeparture

 
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