CPLC Faculty part of Illinois research team selected for NASA Astrobiology Institute Grant

9/26/2012

(l to r)Nigel Goldenfeld, Zan Luthey-Schulten, and Carl Woese
(l to r)Nigel Goldenfeld, Zan Luthey-Schulten, and Carl Woese

Three CPLC faculty, Nigel Goldenfeld, Zan Luthey-Schulten, and Carl Woese, are part of a multidisciplinary team of UIUC researchers that has been recently invited to join the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) and awarded a five-year research grant to study the origin and evolution of life. Goldenfeld, Professor of Physics and Biocomplexity theme leader at the Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB), is the principle investigator on the NAI award.  Luthey-Schulten, Professor of Chemistry and affiliated faculty in Physics, IGB, and Center for Biophysics and Computational Biology, and Woese, Professor  of Microbiology and IGB faculty are two of thirteen co-investigators on the grant.   The research team will utilize multiple approaches from fields of genomics, microbiology, geobiology, computational chemistry, and physics to investigate the idea of ‘universal biology’ – fundamental principles governing the evolution of life anywhere in the universe. One hypothesis being explored is that the earliest life existed as a collective undergoing rapid evolution. Complementary studies will focus on quantitative mutational analysis of cell stress adaptation as well as identification of signatures for the evolutionary transitions from communal life to individual organismal lineages.