Morris Lecturer Explores the Origins of Life
How did life on planet Earth begin? Nick Lane, a professor of evolutionary biochemistry at the University College London, shared his insights into that question as this year’s Robert S. Morris Class of 1976 Visiting Fellow. Lane visited Hamilton on April 6 to deliver his lecture, “Energy and Matter at the Origin of Life.”
Students and faculty from various disciplines gathered to hear Lane as he drew from chemical, physical, biological, and geographic backgrounds to explore one of the most deeply existential questions facing the scientific community. Succinctly covering centuries of research and theories about life’s origins, Lane supports a hypothesis centered around alkaline hydrothermal vents, where inorganic materials provided conditions for the eventual development of organic compounds and other components necessary for life.
Kate Peinkofer ’22, a chemistry major with physics and music minors, attended the lecture after taking Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry Shiblee Barua’s Chemistry in Space course. “This lecture provided an in-depth view on how, chemically, we think life might have started on Earth,” she said. “Especially interesting to consider is how Professor Lane’s research may shed light on the possibility of life on other planets.”
Lane’s research focuses on the role of energy flow in the evolutionary process, which examines the implications of life’s origins through experimental and theoretical methods. He was a founding member of the UCL Consortium for Mitochondrial Research and is co-director of the UCL Centre for Life’s Origin and Evolution.
The Morris Fellowship fund was established in 2013 by Charter Trustee Robert S. Morris ’76, P’16,’17 to bring to campus a distinguished “scholar with specific emerging topic expertise in math or the sciences in order to enhance current academic offerings.”