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Origin of Life Laboratory

Origins Institute members have pioneered technology to provide experimental evidence about how ‘life’ (i.e., living entities) formed on Earth.

Research Streams

Origins Institute members implement inquiries into space-time and its complexity. Researchers investigate the early universe and its accelerated expansion as well as dark matter and dark energy.

Origins Institute members explore the chemical history for globular cluster stars and determine how elements are formed inside red giant stars. Researchers also conduct experiments to understand how nuclei in gamma-ray astronomy are produced.

Origins Institute members investigate how stars, planets, and galaxies form. Researchers use of state of the art supercomputer simulations as well as theoretical and mathematical modeling; advanced observations at radio, optical, and millimetre telescopes and observatories, on the ground & in outer space; these include CFHT, ALMA, JCMT, and Gemini (ground) & the Hubble Space Telescope and Herschel Space Observatory (outer space).

Origins Institute members test hypotheses about how life formed – from planetary systems, habitable conditions, and biomolecule emergence to the first living entities that appeared on Earth and possibly other planets. Observational, experimental, theoretical and computational researchers explore three areas – conditions for life, origins of life, and extremophiles as well as extreme-tolerant organisms.

Origins Institute members perform molecular evolution and bioinformatics analyses to document genetic change over time. Researchers also computationally analyse microbial genomes; identify signature sequences in microbes for taxonomic purposes; apply biochemical techniques to study antibiotic resistance and its evolution; conduct molecular, ecological, and quantitative genetic analyses to relate patterns and processes in microbe populations; use nematodes to investigate cell signaling, proliferation, and differentiation; adopt computational biological approaches to explore invertebrate skeleton evolution; study fruit flies and humans to explore speciation through hybrid incompatibility and sexual selection; and employ chemical and molecular techniques to elucidate preservation states in palaeontological, archaeological, and forensic remains.

Origins Institute members attempt to understand how consciousness arose by addressing fundamental unresolved questions about nervous systems development and how nervous systems mediate sensory, motor, and cognitive functions. Researchers use experimental and theoretical approaches and bring together biologists, cognitive scientists, computer scientists, mathematicians, and physicists; they conduct developmental and computational neuroscience.

Origins Institute members extract DNA from fossilised human skeletons to elucidate human evolution; perform comparative genetics to understand human diversity; and perform in silico experiments to test hypotheses and theories about human menopause.

Origins Institute members seek to understand how life arose on Earth and could have arisen elsewhere by investigating interconnected topics and questions from many disciplines. 

Planets & Environments 

  • Star, planet, and galaxy formation 
  • Exoplanet and biosignatures detection on Earth, other planets, and exoplanets 
  • Geological processes and landform analysis on Earth and other planets 
  • Atmospheres and oceans on Earth and other planets 
  • In what environment did life arise? 
  • How does life change the environment? 
  • Palaeoenvironments on Earth 
  • Life in extreme environments on Earth and elsewhere 

Origin of Life & Biochemistry 

  • Nucleic acid, protein, lipid, and carbohydrate synthesis 
  • Experiments on prebiotic chemistry and the origin of life 
  • Chemistry on the early Earth, in the solar system, and on exoplanets 
  • Molecular replication emergence and evolution onset 
  • Ribozymes, deoxyribozymes, and other catalytic molecules 
  • iI vitro selection and applied molecular evolution 


  • Evolution of molecules, genes, and cells in organisms 
  • Evolution from simple molecular replicators to cells and organisms 
  • Genomes and genome evolution 
  • Microbial ecosystems throughout Earth history 
  • Major evolutionary transitions 
  • Artificial life in a computer 
  • What is life? 

Meet our Experts