I am broadly interested in the mechanisms of metabolic evolution. Metabolism forms a global biochemical network that mediates Earth’s biogeochemical cycles and supplies the energy and building blocks of all cells. Reconstructing its evolution helps us understand how chemistry constrains living systems. Areas of interest include tracing metabolic evolution back to the origin of life, examining how metabolic evolution may impact ecological dynamics, and using metabolism to look for co-evolutionary feedbacks between the biological and geological world.
A more general interest in how chemistry evolves in the universe, and how it may have produced life on Earth, originally led me to a graduate career studying the chemistry of star-forming regions in the interstellar medium. The evolutionary gap between those processes and life is huge, however, so at some point during my PhD I realized that to satisfy my scientific curiosity I would need to shift to directly studying the chemistry of living systems. I began those studies in earnest when I moved to SFI after my PhD. Initially I focused on the emergence and early evolution of metabolic chemistry, but have been increasingly drawn to thinking about the role of ecosystems, and to looking for mechanistic links between levels of description.
Academic training: MSc Chemistry, University of Amsterdam; PhD Chemical Physics, Caltech