Sara Imari Walker, PhD
Associate Professor, School of Earth and Space Exploration
Arizona State University
External Faculty, Santa Fe Institute
Lecture: 30/09 (Thursday) – 18:00 CEST
Planetary Systems Biochemistry: Inferring the laws of life at a Planetary Scale
Currently, no general theory exists that explains what life is. While many definitions for life do exist, these are primarily descriptive, not predictive, and they have so far proved insufficient to explain the origins of life, or to provide rigorous constraints on what properties we might expect all examples of life to share (e.g., in our search for life in alien environments). In this talk I discuss new approaches to understanding what universal principles might explain the nature of life and elucidate the mechanisms of its origins, focusing on recent work in our group elucidating regularities and law-like behavior of biochemical networks on Earth from the scale of individual organisms to the planetary scale.
Professor Sara Walker is an astrobiologist and theoretical physicist. Her work focuses on the origins and nature of life, and in particular whether or not there are universal ‘laws of life’ that would allow predicting when life emerges and can guide our search for other examples on other worlds. Her research integrates diverse perspectives ranging from chemistry, biology, geology, astronomy and the foundations of physics, to computer science, cheminformatics, artificial life, artificial intelligence and consciousness. At Arizona State University she is Deputy Director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science, Associate Director of the ASU-Santa Fe Institute Center for Biosocial Complex Systems and Associate Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. She is also a member of the External Faculty at the Santa Fe Institute. She is active in public engagement in science, with appearances on “Through the Wormhole”, NPR’s Science Friday, and on a number of international science festivals and podcasts. She has published in leading research journals including Nature, Science and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and is an internationally recognized thought leader in the study of the origins of life, alien life and the search for a deeper understanding of ourselves in our universe.