Understanding How Life Began

The Public Science Lectures

April 2010 Belmont Media Center, Belmont MA

Alonso Ricardo, Ph.D., Research Fellow, Szostak Lab, Harvard Medical School, Department of Molecular Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Some of the molecules in our DNA are identical to molecules brought to Earth on meteorites. Dr. Ricardo discusses how those molecules met with the conditions on Earth to lead to the emergence of life. He presents in a very clear manner the complexity of even the earliest life, and he supplements with wonderful animations and video the major features of life that scientists are concerned to reconstruct, including the nucleotides for genetic information and the cell membrane. In addition to his explanation of what scientists know about the origins of life, Dr. Ricardo discusses the efforts to synthesize life in the lab –a project for which the Szostak Lab is famous. This outstanding presentation is useful for both non-specialists and for students.

Dr. Alonso Ricardo is a Research Fellow at the lab of Jack Szostak, Ph.D., 2009 Nobel Laureate (Physiology) Jack Szostak Lab. Dr. Ricardo's Ph.D. mentor was Stephen Benner (University of Florida), a world leader in the field of origins of life. Dr. Ricardo now does research with Dr. Jack Szostak on non-natural genetic systems and self-replicating polymers.