Research Visitors 2019

OI will host a series of International Scientists in 2019 who will benefit McMaster by bringing expertise, promoting new collaborations, and contributing to student education.


Particle Physics

Darren Grant - University of Alberta

Visit Date: 9th April 2019.

Local Host: Cliff Burgess

Dr. Darren Grant studies the properties of some of nature’s most elusive fundamental particles through the development of ultra-sensitive detectors deployed in extreme locations around the globe. He obtained his Ph.D. from Carleton University investigating the properties of solar neutrinos with Canada's Sudbury Neutrino Observatory. Dr. Grant is currently the spokesperson for the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, is a recent recipient of NSERC-Canada’s E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship, and elected member of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada.


Image credit: Martin Lipman / NSERC 

Public Lecture - “Ghosts in the ice - hunting for the universe’s most elusive particles in Antarctica”

Tuesday April 9th, McMaster Innovation Park Room AB, 175 Longwood Road South.

7.00pm Doors Open and Light Refreshments. 7.30pm Lecture.

Important: Please register here to save a space

Abstract: In some of the planet's most extreme environments scientists are constructing enormous detectors to study the very rare interactions produced by neutrinos. At South Pole Station Antarctica more than a cubic kilometre of the deep glacial ice has been instrumented to construct the world's largest neutrino detector: the IceCube Neutrino Observatory.  Designed to detect the highest energy neutrinos expected to be produced in the most violent astrophysical processes, IceCube recently announced the discovery of the first neutrinos originating from a distant supermassive black hole.  Presented will be a view into this new window to the universe and the future outlook for this rapidly evolving field.

Image credit: IceCube/NSF


Origins of Life Chemistry

Jonathan S Lindsey - North Carolina State University

Visit Date: Week beginning 29th April 2019

Local Host: Paul Harrison

Jonathan S Lindsey's work involves studying the diversity of natural product synthesis in Cyanobacteria, and the synthetic chemistry of light-capturing molecules like chlorophylls. He is also designing new fluorophore molecules useful in clinical diagnosis of cancer.

Jonathan S. Lindsey received his B.S. Degree in Chemistry from Indiana University at Bloomington. He earned the Ph.D. degree from The Rockefeller University in 1983. His doctoral work with Dr. David C. Mauzerall concerned the synthesis and characterization of a 3-dimensional molecular architecture for studies of light-driven electron-transfer reactions, as occur in the reaction center of photosynthetic bacteria. After continuing for one-year as a postdoctoral fellow at Rockefeller, he spent 12 years on the faculty at Carnegie Mellon University, and moved in 1996 to North Carolina State University as Glaxo Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry.

Public Lecture - "Photosynthesis and the Origin of Life"

Wednesday May 1st, McMaster Innovation Park Room AB, 175 Longwood Road South.

7.00pm Doors Open and Light Refreshments. 7.30pm Lecture.

Abstract: Photosynthesis is a vital step in the evolution of life that occurred very early in Earth's evolutionary history. Our own origins-related work in organic chemistry has been aimed at understanding how the porphyrin pigments underlying photosynthesis could originate at the time of the origin of life. We also study the genomes of cyanobacteria in order to understand how photosynthesis has continued to evolve in modern organisms, and we develop practical applications of porphyrins for capturing light in medicine (e.g. cancer detection).


Structure of the light-sensitive molecule Tyloporphyrin A, and Fluorescence microscopy image of HT-58-2 cyanobacterial filaments. (Image from Hughes et al 2018)


Planetary Science

Sarah M Hörst - Johns Hopkins University

Visit Date: Week beginning June 10th 2019.

Local Host: Ralph Pudritz

Sarah M Hörst is Assistant Professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Johns Hopkins University where she is working to understand the formation and composition of planetary atmospheric hazes.

Titan is unique in the solar system; it is the only satellite with a substantial atmosphere and its atmosphere is both strongly reducing and contains significant quantities of carbon (CH4), nitrogen (N2) and oxygen (CO). Photochemistry in Titan’s atmosphere is therefore able to create complex molecules containing C, N, O and H. This makes Titan our only planetary-scale laboratory to study the synthesis of complex organic molecules. Dr Hörst uses photochemical modeling and laboratory atmosphere simulation experiments to improve our understanding of Titan's atmosphere. 

Public Lecture - "Titan: Ingredients for Life"

Wednesday 12th June, 7.30pm Details to be confirmed

Abstract- Saturn's largest moon, Titan, is unique in our solar system. Below Titan's thick organic haze layer, rivers of methane carve channels into an icy bedrock and flow into large hydrocarbons seas. Across the landscape, water ice mountains and extensive organic sand dune fields are simultaneously alien and reminiscent of Earth. Titan’s lake mottled surface and thick, organic rich atmosphere may be an ideal setting for life as we do not know it and there is certainly much yet to be learned about our own home from the study of Titan.


Soft Matter and Origin of Life

Christian Mayer - Univerity of Duisburg-Essen

Visit Date: Week beginning Sept 16th 2019.

Local Host: Maikel Rheinstädter / Paul Higgs

Christian Mayer’s work focuses on the spontaneous formation of protocell-like structures under geothermal conditions. It involves experiments leading to a controlled molecular and structural evolution simulating processes which occur at depths around 1 km in the planetary crust. Christian Mayer studied Chemistry at the University of Stuttgart (Germany) and the University of Cincinnati (USA). He earned his PhD degree on reconstituted biological membranes in Stuttgart and initially started an industrial career at Hoechst (Frankfurt, Germany) and Celanese (Winona, USA). In 1996, he returned to an academic environment accepting a professorship at the University of Duisburg. Meanwhile, he is professor at the University campus in Essen (Germany) and is presently heading an initiative on molecular evolution within the German Astrobiological Society.

The cycle of vesicle formation, and experimental vesicles resulting from pressure cycling





Artificial Life

Charles Ofria - Michigan State University

Visit Date: Week beginning Oct 21st 2019.

Local Host: Ian Dworkin / Paul Higgs

Charles Ofria director of the Digital Evolution Laboratory. He conducts research on evolution in artificial systems and applies the results to problems in computer science and evolutionary biology. He developed Avida, a software-based research platform consisting of populations of digital organisms used in biological research.