May 2, 2005

International conference probes the origins of life beyond Earth

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The Origins Institute at McMaster University is hosting the first major Canadian conference devoted to the origins of life in the solar system and beyond.

Hamilton, ON - International scientists will gather at McMaster University for the first major Canadian conference devoted to the origins of life in the solar system and beyond. The conference, to be held from May 25 to 28, is organized by McMaster’s Origins Institute in partnership with the Canadian Space Agency.

Astrobiology and the Origins of Life will feature new observations by astronomers, physicists, biologists, biochemists, mathematicians, geologists, chemists, and anthropologists from around the world who are tackling some of the most important questions of science: How did life originate on Earth? What were the important steps in evolution? How do stars and planets form? Is there life elsewhere?

“The conference is going to be grouped under two interrelated themes: planetary science, and evolutionary biology,” said Ralph Pudritz, director of the Origins Institute. “It’s going to be fascinating conference, full of fresh ideas from some of the greatest minds in the field.”

Among the presenters will be Chris McKay, a planetary scientist/explorer with NASA Ames, involved in the Huygens probe of Titan, as well as in the plan for human settlements on the Mars Phoenix mission. He will deliver the Origins Institute’s public lecture: What is Life, and How do We Search for it in Other Worlds? It will be held Wednesday, May 25 at 8 p.m. in the Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Learning and Discovery (MDCL) Room 1305. Admission is free.

Other speakers include Hervé Philippe, a Canadian Research Chair in evolutionary bioinformatics and genomics; Lynn Rothschild, research scientist at NASA Ames studying photosynthesis using radioactive carbon to trace changes in carbon dioxide production; David Deamer, a chemist probing the origins of the genetic code; Doug Lin, a renowned theoretical astrophysicist working on the formation of planets; Karl Stetter of the University of Regensburg, Germany, a pioneer in extremophile research (how bacteria and organisms adapt to extreme temperatures); and Eörs Szathmáry, professor of biology at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, who has created a scenario for the origin of the genetic code.

Please visit to view the conference schedule and list of presenters. A brief bio of each presenter can be found here.

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