WN@tL: “The Origin of Life as a Chemical Ecological Problem: New Ideas and New Experiments”

May 23 - 7:00PM - 8:15PM
UW Biotechnology Center, 425 Henry Mall, Room 1111, Madison, WI 53706
Cost: Free


David Baum, professor, Department of Botany; Discovery Fellow, Wisconsin Institute for Discovery

About the talk

Life is a chemical ecosystem that can propagate itself, spreading into formerly unoccupied regions of space. In his talk, David Baum will show that self-propagation implies the capacity to evolve adaptively, and that such adaptive evolution can begin with simple chemical ecosystems occupying mineral surfaces, which only later invent cells and genetic systems. He will also discuss the implications of this ecological approach for empirical research into the origins of life and describe a set of experiments that he’s conducting as part of a collaborative team funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA. 

About the speaker

David Baum is a professor in — and a former chair of — the Department of Botany at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he conducts research in evolutionary biology, plant genetics, and the origins and early evolution of life. He earned an undergraduate degree in botany at Oxford University, a doctorate in population and evolutionary biology from Washington University, and then conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He served on the faculty of the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University and earned tenure there in 2000 before returning to the University of Wisconsin in 2001. Baum has published two books and more than 100 research publications; has been awarded an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Young Investigator Award, an NSF Career Award, a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship; and was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He teaches courses in introductory biology and evolution and was honored with UW–Madison’s Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 2015.

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