"What is “I”: The Role of Compartmentalization in the Origins of Life"

Anna Wang, Postdoctoral Fellow, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard University
Monday, January 29, 2018 - 4:00pm to 5:00pm

The only examples of life (as we know it) have cell membranes. Not only does the membrane delineate individual entities, it also provides a means to sustain a chemical gradient, concentrate small molecules, and provide protection from parasitic genetic polymers that could compromise fitness. Here we’ll look at efforts towards understanding how prebiotically plausible membranes could have formed, what their properties are, and touch on what roles other types of compartmentalisation could have played in life’s origins. We’ll end with a discussion of current efforts to make a protocell - a minimal system comprised of just membrane and RNA - that is capable of growth, division, replication, and evolution.

About the Speaker

Dr. Wang is a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital investigating robust growth and division schemes for model protocell membranes. MORE

This lecture is part of IAP 2018: Origin of Life Seminar Series
12.091/ 12.S593 | Instructor: Greg Fournier

A series of hosted lectures from leaders in the Origin of Life community, focusing on various dimensions of one of the most challenging problems in the biological and planetary sciences.  Topics will include the origin of cells, metabolism, replication and proteins, as well as the geochemical conditions on the Early Earth that led to prebiotic and early biotic systems.  Enrolled students will attend 4-5 seminars during IAP, actively engage in Q & A sessions with invited speakers in a panel format, and collaborate on creating an Origins of Life online blog resource highlighting the work of invited speakers.


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Vlada Stamenkovic | NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, CalTech