Place: Wisconsin Institute of Discovery, Orchard Room
Speaker: Dr. Sukrit Ranjan, Northwestern University
Abstract: Advances in origins-of-life chemistry are transforming our understanding of how life emerged on Earth, while upcoming space missions and telescopes offer the prospect of detecting life on other worlds. Fundamental to both quests is interaction of UV radiation with molecular systems (photochemistry). Photochemistry controls the chemical context for the origin of life on Earth and influences the molecular signposts with which we hope to detect life elsewhere. I will share photochemical work which refines our understanding of early Earth environments, and demonstrate how such understanding enables assessment and improvement of theories of origins-of-life chemistry. I will discuss photochemical efforts to elucidate potential atmospheric biosignatures of life on other worlds, and show how the search for life on other worlds may enable tests of theories of the origin of life. In sum, I will review theoretical, experimental, and observational work towards understanding the origin and distribution of life in the universe through the lens of photochemistry.