Kamila Muchowska, PhD
CNRS Research Scientist/Research Assistant Professor (chargée de recherche) at the Institut of Supramolecular Science and Engineering (Institute de Science et d’Ingénierie Supramoléculaires),
University of Strasbourg and CNRS
Non-enzymatic metabolic reactions and life’s origins
Life is governed by an intricate network of chemical reactions that make up metabolism. How the biochemistry of life as we know it came to be is studied by prebiotic chemistry. Lots of efforts in this area have focused on life’s building blocks, often obtained in multi-step chemical syntheses. However, focusing only on the molecular building blocks, rather than the processes that produce them, may have caused us to overlook what might be a fundamental feature of life. Why does life use the molecules, reactions, pathways, and overall organization that it does? In this talk, I will present how the chemistry that led to life could have begun as a primitive non-enzymatic version of known biochemistry, initially promoted by naturally occurring catalysts, for example geologically abundant iron-rich minerals and salts. If it existed, such a reaction network would have built up and broken down life’s chemical building blocks in much the same way as the pathways that do it today. The knowledge of processes that may have led to the emergence of life’s core biochemistry is of paramount importance not only to the origins studies of life on Earth, but also to the search for life-like systems beyond our planet
Kamila B. Muchowska is a CNRS Research Scientist at the Institut de Science et d’Ingénierie Supramoléculaires (University of Strasbourg & CNRS), associated with the Laboratory of Chemical Catalysis. She obtained her MSc Eng degree in chemical technology from the Gdansk University of Technology (Poland) in 2011. In 2015, she was awarded her PhD in physical organic chemistry (Prof. Scott Cockroft, University of Edinburgh, UK). After 3.5 years as a postdoctoral researcher with Prof. Joseph Moran, where she studied metabolism-like reactions potentially related to the origin of life on Earth, she joined the CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research) in 2019 in the molecular biology/biochemistry section, and was awarded a tenured position in 2020. Her research interests include prebiotic chemistry, evolutionary (bio)chemistry and complex systems. In 2020 she was selected by the European Chemical Society as a finalist of the European Young Chemists’ Award (EYCA 2020) at the Early Career level.