Public Lecture June 25th 8pm

Towards a universal biology: Is the origin and evolution of life predictable?  
With guest speaker Dr. Lynn Rothschild, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island.

Mon June 25th. 8pm (doors open 7.30) MDCL1305.

This is a free public lecture, supported by McMaster Alumni Community - all are welcome.


The origin and evolution of life seems an unpredictable oddity, based on the quirks of contingency. Celebrated by the late Stephen Jay Gould in several books, “evolution by contingency” has all the adventure of a thriller, but lacks the predictive power of the physical sciences. Not necessarily so, replied Simon Conway Morris, for convergence reassures us that certain evolutionary responses are replicable. The outcome of this debate is critical to Astrobiology. How can we understand where we came from on Earth without prophesy? Further, we cannot design a rational strategy for the search for life elsewhere - or to understand what the future will hold for life on Earth and beyond - without extrapolating from pre-biotic chemistry and evolution.


Dr. Lynn Rothschild is passionate about the origin and evolution of life on Earth or elsewhere, while at the same time pioneering the use of synthetic biology to enable space exploration. She is a senior scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center as well as Adjunct Professor at Brown University, and the University of California Santa Cruz. Her research has focused on how life, particularly microbes, has evolved in the context of the physical environment, both here and potentially elsewhere. She founded and ran the first three Astrobiology Science Conferences (AbSciCon), was the founding co-editor of the International Journal of Astrobiology. Her astrobiology research includes examining a protein-based scenario for the origin of life, hunting for the most radiation resistant organisms, and determining signatures for life on extrasolar planets. More recently, Rothschild has articulated a vision for synthetic biology as an enabling technology for NASA’s missions, including human space exploration and astrobiology. In 2015, she was awarded the Isaac Asimov Award from the American Humanist Association, and was the recipient of the Horace Mann Award from Brown University. She frequently appears on documentaries, TV and radio, and lectures worldwide, including Windsor Castle and the Vatican.

Lynn Rothschild at the Stromatolites in Shark Bay, Australia