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Origins of Life
Gordon Research Conference

Bridging Disciplinary Perspectives to See Further Into Life's Origins

Dates

January 17-22, 2016

Location

Hotel Galvez
Galveston, TX

Organizers

Chair:
Stephen Freeland

Vice Chair:
Matthew A. Pasek

Meeting Description

The theme of the 2016 Origins of Life Gordon Research Conference is crossing disciplinary boundaries.

The research required to understand life's origins occurs at a point where multiple scientific disciplines meet. Chemists, biologists, physicists, geoscientists, planetary scientists, astronomers, meteoriticists, mathematicians and computer scientists are among those contributing to progress. Combining the findings of each discipline into a composite narrative produces multidisciplinary science. The origins research community has come far in this endeavor. More challenging is to extend these connections into true interdisciplinarity, wherein the insights of one research community influence the interpretation of data and questions being asked by others.

The forthcoming Gordon Research Conference will explore this transition, from multidisciplinarity to interdisciplinarity. It will visit the traditional array of topics, from LUCA to the non living universe. It will emphasize, however, speakers whose work crosses traditional disciplinary boundaries. It will create spaces where scientists from different disciplines are challenged to build bridges of knowledge between their respective areas of expertise. The GRC will integrate with the preceding GRS (Gordon Research Seminar) by asking the latter to report forwards where they see important, emerging connections - in presentations, discussion panels and questions to the conference.

Related Meeting

This GRC was held in conjunction with the "Origins of Life" Gordon Research Seminar (GRS). Refer to the associated GRS program page for more information.

Contributors

Final Meeting Program

Sunday
4:00 pm - 8:00 pmArrival and Check-in
6:00 pmDinner
7:30 pm - 7:40 pmWelcome / Introductory Comments by GRC Site Staff
7:40 pm - 9:30 pmKeynote Session: How Have We Arrived at Today's Questions?
To launch this meeting of the "Origins" GRC, the opening session will consider by what routes our research community has arrived at the pressing questions of 2016 - from "historical baggage" to well-established insights, from deeply ingrained thinking to emergent, novel ideas.
Discussion Leader: Stephen Freeland (University of Maryland, Baltimore County, USA)
7:40 pm - 7:55 pmOpening Remarks
7:55 pm - 8:25 pmAntonio Lazcano Araujo (Facultad de Ciencias, UNAM, Mexico)
"The History Leading to Our Current Frontiers"
8:25 pm - 8:35 pmDiscussion
8:35 pm - 9:05 pmTori Hoehler (National Aeronautics and Space Administration, USA)
"Insights into Origins from Rock Powered Life"
9:05 pm - 9:15 pmDiscussion
9:15 pm - 9:30 pmGeneral Discussion
Monday
7:30 am - 8:30 amBreakfast
8:30 amGroup Photo
9:00 am - 12:30 pmProbing the Edges of Our Confidence
The properties of LUCA seem clear and unambiguous: moving backwards in time, however, causes scientific opinion to diverge into different, compelling viewpoints. In this session a series of researchers present different approaches to seeing one step further back into the uncertainties that precede "Life as we know it".
Discussion Leader: Joseph Onyilagha (University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, USA)
9:00 am - 9:10 amIntroduction by Discussion Leader
9:10 am - 9:40 amJeffrey Wong (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong SAR China)
"Coevolution of Metabolic Pathways and the Genetic Code"
9:40 am - 9:50 amDiscussion
9:50 am - 10:20 amPaul Higgs (McMaster University, Canada)
"From Cooperating Ribozymes to Genetically Encoded Proteins"
10:20 am - 10:30 amDiscussion
10:30 am - 11:00 amCoffee Break
11:00 am - 11:30 amGregory Fournier (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA)
"What Genetic Characteristics Precede LUCA?"
11:30 am - 11:40 amDiscussion
11:40 am - 12:10 pmDonald Burke (University of Missouri, USA)
"What Would Establish Plausibility of an RNA World?"
12:10 pm - 12:20 pmDiscussion
12:20 pm - 12:30 pmGeneral Discussion
12:30 pmLunch
1:30 pm - 4:00 pmFree Time
3:00 pm - 4:00 pmPower Hour
The GRC Power Hour is an optional informal gathering open to all meeting participants. It is designed to help address the challenges women face in science and support the professional growth of women in our communities by providing an open forum for discussion and mentoring.
Organizer: Britney Schmidt (Georgia Institute of Technology, USA)
4:00 pm - 6:00 pmPoster Session
6:00 pmDinner
7:30 pm - 9:30 pmAdvances in Understanding Simpler, Earlier Biospheres
LUCA used "alphabets" of 20 amino acids and 4 nucleotides with which to construct itself. What preceded this?
Discussion Leader: Rolando Rengifo (Emory University, USA)
7:30 pm - 7:45 pmIntroduction by Discussion Leader
7:45 pm - 8:20 pmBurckhard Seelig (University of Minnesota, USA)
"Proteins from Prebiotic Amino Acids: A Functional Perspective"
8:20 pm - 8:30 pmDiscussion
8:30 pm - 9:05 pmKlara Hlouchova (Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic)
"Proteins from Prebiotic Amino Acids: A Structural Perspective"
9:05 pm - 9:15 pmDiscussion
9:15 pm - 9:30 pmGeneral Discussion
Tuesday
7:30 am - 8:30 amBreakfast
9:00 am - 12:30 pmConnecting Life's Building Blocks: The Challenges of Biopolymers
Life as we know it revolves around polymers. A major challenge for origins research is to understand the processes by which a complex, non-biological chemistry could have produced such unlikely molecules.
Discussion Leader: Christopher Bennett (Georgia Institute of Technology, USA)
9:00 am - 9:15 amIntroduction by Discussion Leader
9:15 am - 9:45 amRamanarayanan Krishnamurthy (The Scripps Research Institute, USA)
"Prebiotically Plausible Ancestors to the Nucleic Acids"
9:45 am - 9:55 amDiscussion
9:55 am - 10:20 amMasashi Aono (Earth-Life Science Institute, Japan)
"Oligopeptide Formation at Geysers"
10:20 am - 10:30 amDiscussion
10:30 am - 11:00 amCoffee Break
11:00 am - 11:30 amDavid Deamer (University of California, Santa Cruz, USA)
"Self-Assembly and Polymerization in Hydrothermal Fields"
11:30 am - 11:40 amDiscussion
11:40 am - 12:10 pmGonen Ashkenasy (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel)
"Prebiotically Plausible Replicating Peptide Networks from Simulation and Experiments"
12:10 pm - 12:20 pmDiscussion
12:20 pm - 12:30 pmGeneral 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 pmOrigins Beyond Earth: Where Else in Our Solar System Might We Expect to Study Life's Origins?
It seems increasingly likely that "life friendly" conditions exist in multiple locations within our cosmic neighborhood: from Mars to Europa, this session will explore the current frontiers of extraterrestrial origins.
Discussion Leader: Heather Kaluna (Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, USA)
7:30 pm - 7:45 pmIntroduction by Discussion Leader
7:45 pm - 8:20 pmBritney Schmidt (Georgia Institute of Technology, USA)
"Other Prebiotic Oceans in Our Solar System?"
8:20 pm - 8:30 pmDiscussion
8:30 pm - 9:10 pmMichael Meyer (National Aeronautics and Space Administration, USA)
"What Does Mars Contribute to Understanding Life's Origins?"
9:10 pm - 9:20 pmDiscussion
9:20 pm - 9:30 pmGeneral Discussion
Wednesday
7:30 am - 8:30 amBreakfast
9:00 am - 12:30 pmThe Exogenous Influence: What Did Extraterrestrial Sources Contribute to Life's Origins?
Planet Earth is not and never has been a "closed system." Contributions from the surrounding cosmos have long been posited as influential around the time of life's origins. What were they and how can we know?
Discussion Leader: Patrick Gasda (Los Alamos National Laboratory, USA)
9:00 am - 9:15 amIntroduction by Discussion Leader
9:15 am - 9:45 amAaron Burton (Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, NASA, USA)
"Making Sense of the Organic Inventory of Meteorites"
9:45 am - 9:55 amDiscussion
9:55 am - 10:25 amNicolle Zellner (Albion College, USA)
"Rethinking the Late Heavy Bombardment"
10:25 am - 10:35 amDiscussion
10:35 am - 11:05 amCoffee Break
11:05 am - 11:35 amJose Aponte (National Aeronautics and Space Administration, USA)
"Insights from Isotope Signatures"
11:35 am - 11:45 amDiscussion
11:45 am - 12:10 pmDaisuke Kiga (Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan)
"Designing Life"
12:10 pm - 12:20 pmDiscussion
12:20 pm - 12:30 pmGeneral 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 in Conference Evaluation Forms; Discuss Future Site and Scheduling Preferences; Election of the Next Vice Chair
7:30 pm - 9:30 pmWhat Do Computers Bring to the Study of Life's Origins?
From bioinformatics to chemoinformatics to astroinformatics, computers are bringing new tractability to old questions: what advances have been made and where are they headed next?
Discussion Leader: Nicholas Guttenberg (Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan)
7:30 pm - 7:40 pmIntroduction by Discussion Leader
7:40 pm - 8:05 pmMarkus Meringer (German Aerospace Center (DLR), Germany)
"50 Years of Chemical Space Exploration Through Computation"
8:05 pm - 8:15 pmDiscussion
8:15 pm - 8:40 pmMarco Saitta (Université Pierre et Marie Curie, France)
"Simulating Prebiotic Chemistry at Mineral Surfaces"
8:40 pm - 8:50 pmDiscussion
8:50 pm - 9:15 pmJamess Stephenson (National Aeronautics and Space Administration, USA)
"Modelling Amino Acids into Proteins"
9:15 pm - 9:25 pmDiscussion
9:25 pm - 9:30 pmGeneral Discussion
Thursday
7:30 am - 8:30 amBreakfast
9:00 am - 12:30 pmFuture Funding Directions and Implications for Life Origin Research / Selected Poster Presentations
This Session will feature presentations from those who administer research funding, or their designated appointees (including those who have contributed to this conference) to present and invite discussion upon the emphases that they are seeking to encourage as the community moves forwards.
Discussion Leader: Omer Markovitch (Newcastle University, United Kingdom)
9:00 am - 9:20 amIntroduction by Discussion Leader
9:20 am - 9:45 amMary Voytek (National Aeronautics and Space Administration, USA)
"The View from NASA"
9:45 am - 9:55 amDiscussion
9:55 am - 10:20 amCharles Liarakos (National Science Foundation, USA)
"The View from NSF"
10:20 am - 10:30 amDiscussion
10:30 am - 11:00 amCoffee Break
11:00 am - 11:20 amPaul Wason (John Templeton Foundation, USA)
"The View from Templeton"
11:20 am - 11:30 amDiscussion
11:30 am - 11:40 amSelected from Poster Abstracts: Vanessa McCaffrey (Albion College, USA)
"Stereospecific Sugar Synthesis"
11:40 am - 11:45 amDiscussion
11:45 am - 11:55 amSelected from Poster Abstracts: Karyn Rogers (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, USA)
"RNA Polymerization Under Early Earth Conditions"
11:55 am - 12:00 pmDiscussion
12:00 pm - 12:10 pmSelected from Poster Abstracts: Jay Forsythe (Georgia Institute of Technology, USA)
"Resolving the Complexity of the Prebiotic Proto-Peptidome"
12:10 pm - 12:15 pmDiscussion
12:15 pm - 12:25 pmSelected from Poster Abstracts: Sarah Maurer (Central Connecticut State University, USA)
"Salt Effect on Vesicles"
12:25 pm - 12:30 pmDiscussion
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 pmSelected Poster Presentations / Young Investigator Presentations
Presentations selected from posters and young investigators.
Discussion Leader: Matthew Pasek (University of South Florida, USA)
7:30 pm - 7:40 pmIntroduction by Discussion Leader
7:40 pm - 8:10 pmRandy Isaac (American Scientific Affiliation, USA)
"Information and Misinformation in Life's Origins"
8:10 pm - 8:20 pmDiscussion
8:20 pm - 8:45 pmSelected from Poster Abstracts: Bruce Damer (University of California, Santa Cruz, USA)
"Hydrothermic Fields"
8:45 pm - 8:55 pmDiscussion
8:55 pm - 9:20 pmSelected from Poster Abstracts: Aditya Chopra (Australian National University, Australia)
"The Biology of Habitability"
9:20 pm - 9:30 pmDiscussion
Friday
7:30 am - 8:30 amBreakfast
9:00 amDeparture
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