2015-10-29: Pizza Night at Caltech featuring a talk by Eric Parker on Origins of Life

Pizza Night at Caltech!

Thursday, October 29th, 2015
7:00 p.m.

California Institute of Technology, Building 72, Noyes 147
1200 East California Boulevard, Pasadena CA 91125

“Spark of Life: The Miller-Urey Experiment and how Old Miller Samples Continue to Provide New Insights into the Origin of Life”
Eric Parker, Georgia Tech

Abstract: The nature of the origins of life is one of the most intrinsically fascinating scientific questions remaining. In 1871 Charles Darwin envisioned a “warm little pond” where organic compounds important for life may have originated. Later, researchers in the 1920s proposed the concept of a “primordial soup”, describing primitive terrestrial oceans that contained organic compounds that may have facilitated chemical evolution. However, these two early hypotheses were not supported by experimental evidence until 1953 when Stanley Miller reported the formation of the building blocks of life using simulated primordial Earth conditions. Miller’s ground-breaking study used a custom-built glass apparatus to mimic the atmosphere-ocean system of the early Earth and produced amino acids by sparking a mixture of water, ammonia, methane, and hydrogen.

This talk will revisit Miller’s classic experiment, highlight the recent discovery of archived Miller samples that were previously unreported, and their analyses using state-of-the-art techniques, and discuss how his old work has provided new insights into prebiotic chemistry. Miller’s pioneering work ushered in the era of experimental studies on, and brought legitimacy to, origin of life research. After more than six decades, Miller’s work continues to push forward the origins of life research field.

Biography: Eric Parker is a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Georgia Tech, where he conducts early Earth and origin of life research within the Center for Chemical Evolution. He earned a B.S. in Environmental Chemistry from UC San Diego and a M.S. in Earth System Science from UC Irvine. Eric’s research background also includes such topics as waste water treatment, the search for life on Mars, and atmospheric chemistry.

Cost: Pizza and soda are available for $5 per person. Please RSVP to Nancy Paradiso at office@scalacs.org by Monday, October 26th so we know how many people to plan for.

Directions: Directions and parking information are available at http://www.caltech.edu/content/directions. Parking is free in any of the lots or structures on Wilson Ave after 5pm. Street parking is also available then.