What can life on Earth tell us about life in the universe?

Astrobiologists work at the intersection of Earth and planetary sciences, chemistry, biology and of course astronomy. By connecting together the knowledge in these disciplines, astrobiologists aim to learn more about the origin and evolution of life on Earth and possibly elsewhere in the universe.

The focus of this PhD research is the study of the early evolution of life using abundances of chemical elements in different life forms and their environments, at different temporal and spatial scales.

Towards the planetary aspect of the project, we are investigating how elemental fractionation processes that occur during planet formation and evolution determined the elemental composition of the biosphere on Earth. The results could be used to predict the composition of exo-planets and the chemistry of possible extraterrestrial life.

The work also involves on a variety of 'side' projects, one of which is examining whether hydrothermal systems were likely sites for the origin of life on Earth.