Life’s Engines: How Microbes Made Earth Habitable
Paul G. Falkowski is the Bennett L. Smith Chair and Director of the Environmental Biophysics and Molecular Ecology Program at Rutgers University. His scientific interests include evolution of the Earth systems, paleoecology, photosynthesis, biophysics, biogeochemical cycles and symbiosis. His research interests are focused on three areas: origins of life, how electron transfer reactions are mediated and how organisms transformed the geochemistry of Earth. In the evolution of Earth, microbes became a major force in transforming this planet to make it habitable for animals, including humans. Falkowski seeks to understand the basic chemical reactions that enabled microbes to transform Earth’s goechemistry. He works at the molecular level of proteins and fundamental chemical reactions of minerals, and the global scale of how this planet came to have oxygen as the second most abundant gas. He is most interested in understanding how these kinds of processes have transformed our planet and may evolve on planetary bodies in our solar system and on extra-solar planets. Falkowski addresses two fundamental questions: Where did we come from? Are we alone? He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Abstract: This lecture will look “under the hood” of cells to examine the evolution of protein structures that are responsible for life on Earth. These structures are literal nanomachines that physically move electrons and generate energy for life. All of the core structures evolved more than 2.5 billion years ago in microbes and were subsequently inherited by plants and animals. Ultimately they came to form a global electronic circuit that is powered by the Sun. Over geological time, the global electronic circuit completely altered the gas composition of Earth. This phenomenon guides us in our search for life on planets outside of our solar system.
This Provost’s Lecture, co-sponsored by the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Consortium for Interdisciplinary Environmental Research, will be held on Thursday, November 2, at 4 pm, in the Simon’s Center Auditorium, Room 103.