Members

Join the Origins Center's research community – the knowledge centre created for and by researchers working in the Netherlands on the origins and evolution of life.

A

Paul Adamski

University of Groningen

Paul Adamski

University of Groningen

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

I work on broadening the chemistry of synthetic self-replicating molecules and towards achieving Darwinian evolution in chemical systems. Furthermore, I work on the compartmentalization of self-replicating molecules.

Self-replication, Chemical Evolution, Systems Chemistry, Compartmentalization

B

Meagan Beatty

University of Groningen

Meagan Beatty

University of Groningen

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

We are interested in exploring the emergence of catalysis by creating synthetic protein-like architectures from simple building blocks in aqueous medium.

Self-Assembly in Water

Karen Bisschop

University of Amsterdam, Origins Center

Karen Bisschop

University of Amsterdam, Origins Center

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

The common thread of my research is the impact of the spatial and community context on adaptation. I performed evolutionary experiments with an arthropod herbivore species (Tetranychus urticae) to test its adaptation to novel host plants under different conditions. I am also intrigued by the microbiota living inside multicellular hosts and this led me to perform both field and lab work to further investigate correlations between hosts, their diet and microbiome, and how these are affected by environmental factors. Currently, I am involved in the 'Predicting Evolution' project to test how robust and predictable evolutionary results are across different institutes in The Netherlands and Belgium using Caenorhabditis elegans as a model species.

evolutionary biology, ecology, experimental evolution

Thomas Blankers

University of Amsterdam, Origins Center

Thomas Blankers

University of Amsterdam, Origins Center

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

I work on the predictability of genetic adaptation during evolution. We have introduced the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, a universal model species in biology, to a novel bacterial food source and observed how C. elegans growth rates adapt to this novel environmental challenge. My role is to analyze the genomes of these nematodes before and after adaptation to find the genetic underpinnings and explore the factors that determine the extent to which genetic adaptation is predictable.

evolutionary genomics, quantitative genetics, animal communication

Mirte Bosse

Wageningen University & Research

Mirte Bosse

Wageningen University & Research

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

I have an expertise in population and conservation genomics in wildlife and livestock. I am interested in how genetic variation arises, is maintained and lost in animal populations, and how this variation can be used for conservation.

Conservation genomics, population genomics, evolutionary genomics

Christiaan van Buchem

Leiden University

Christiaan van Buchem

Leiden University

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

Recently started a PhD aimed at looking into the surface atmosphere interactions of lava planets. The end goal is to find observables in the atmospheres of these planets that could provide information about the composition of the planet itself. In the context of the origins of life, this could help us understand the early evolution of the earth (and earth analogs) and what early conditions are necessary in order to produce the environment that we see on the earth today.

Rocky Exoplanets

C

Dario Campisi

Leiden University

Dario Campisi

Leiden University

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

I am quantum chemical methods using density functional theory (DFT) to explore the formation of extraterrestrial complex organic molecules (COMs) from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in interstellar medium. These COMs are responsable for the emergence of life on earth.

Computational Chemistry Applied to Astrochemistry and Planetary Science

Eloi Camprubi

Utrecht University, Origins Center

Eloi Camprubi

Utrecht University, Origins Center

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

I work in understanding how and why chemical networks display life-like properties and in revealing under which conditions these transitions are promoted. I aim to be involved in the design of space exploration missions targeting the water-rich planetary bodies of the Solar System.

Origin of life, astrobiology, prebiotic chemistry, metabolism, bioenergetics

Adi Chopra

University of Groningen

Adi Chopra

University of Groningen

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

I have recently embarked on research that uses time-series observations of the Earth from low Earth Orbit to understand how life may detectable on exoplanets using future telescopes. I am also interested in understanding planetary habitability, and the role of biological regulation in maintaining a liquid water inventory on rocky planets over billions of years.

Planetary Science, Astrobiology, Habitability

Enrico Sandro Colizzi

Origins Centre, Leiden University

Enrico Sandro Colizzi

Origins Centre, Leiden University

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

I work on understanding how higher levels of biological organisation originate from - and feed back to - lower-level components, and how these multilevel systems evolve. I am currently focusing on three topics: how genetic elements in the RNA world evolve into cellular life; the co-evolution of ecological dynamics and genome structure; and the evolution of multicellularity.

Multilevel evolution, RNA world, Genome evolution, Eco-evolutionary dynamics

Herma Cuppen

Radboud University, University of Amsterdam

Herma Cuppen

Radboud University, University of Amsterdam

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

I focus on the formation of molecules during the stages of star- and planet formation. This will give us a better understanding of the chemical inventory of early Earth and other terrestrial planets. I develop models for the evolution of ices that can cover astronomical timescale while still preserving chemical accuracy.

Computational Chemistry

D

Carsten Dominik

University of Amsterdam

Carsten Dominik

University of Amsterdam

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

I work on protoplanetatry disks, the chemical composition of planets forming in these disks, and on the structure and evolution of planets.

Astrophysics

Mark Driver

University of Groningen

Mark Driver

University of Groningen

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

I aim to explore the role of RNA-protein interactions in molecular life and health in my new fellowship. This is by developing computational approaches to model large molecular systems with coarse grained molecular dynamics (CGMD). Applications of the CGMD model are directed towards understanding the role of RNA-protein interactions in liquid liquid phase separation as well as nuclear export of RNA, but modelling of other processes, like chromatin dynamics and

molecular modelling

E

Rampal Etienne

University of Groningen

Rampal Etienne

University of Groningen

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

How did current complex multicellullar life evolve? A key factor is division of labor. Can we recreate multicellullar life by studying the evolution of microbial populations and communities in the lab? What is the role of heterospecifics in the origin and maintenance of ecological communities?

Theoretical and evolutionary community ecology, experimental evolution, phylogenetics

F

Marco Fraaije

University of Groningen

Marco Fraaije

University of Groningen

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

In my research group we investigate cofactor-dependent enzymes. We the newly developed sequence-based approaches to reconstruct ancestral protein sequences, we have embarked on studies that should reveal how enzymes have evolved. Except for a better understanding on how enzyme properties (such as activity, stability and selectivity) can be tuned, we also try to trace how enzymes evolved to perform complex chemical reactions.

Biochemistry, Palaeontology

Kateryna Frantseva

University of Groningen

Kateryna Frantseva

University of Groningen

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

My research focuses on the dynamics of small bodies in the Solar System. I am interested in understanding the role of asteroids and comets in delivering volatile material to planetary surfaces.

Astrophysics, Planetary Dynamics

G

Ghjuvan Grimaud

Michigan State University

Ghjuvan Grimaud

Michigan State University

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

I am currently working on mathematical modelling of the evolution of metabolic networks under balanced and non-balanced conditions to understand the emergence of early metabolism, in collaboration with Pr. Elena Litchman and Pr. Christopher Klausmeier

Mathematical Modelling, Evolutionary Biology, Genome-scale Metabolic Modelling

Astrid T. Groot

University of Amsterdam

Astrid T. Groot

University of Amsterdam

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

Our research focuses on the evolution of sexual attraction in relation to speciation, and how our knowledge on evolutionary processes can help to predict evolution. We use model (C. elegans) and non-model (Lepidoptera) organisms, with which we conduct field and lab experiments, as well as quantitative and population genetic analyses.

Evolutionary biology

H

Matthias Heinemann

University of Groningen

Matthias Heinemann

University of Groningen

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

More than 1000 different chemical reactions in cells convert food molecules into the building blocks for new cells and energy. We found that this network oscillates in an autonomous manner. We would like to find out whether these oscillations are an early coordinator of the cell growth and division process.

Systems biology, microbiology, metabolism, cell cycle

Frank Helmich

SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research & Kapteyn Astronomical Institute

Frank Helmich

SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research & Kapteyn Astronomical Institute

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

I am an astrochemist by training but with a keen interest in scientific instrument building, mainly in the far-IR regime. One of the main areas of interest for the astrophysical community today is the question of the origin(s) of life and its associated star- and planet-formation.

space research, astrophysics

Wilhelm Huck

Radboud University

Wilhelm Huck

Radboud University

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

Despite much progress in developing prebiotically plausible synthetic routes towards the molecular building blocks of life, we do not understand how complex molecular systems emerged. How did life arise out of a soup of molecules and chemical reactions? Our prime interest is in developing an understanding of how reactions self-organize in response to changes in the environment.

Prebiotic chemistry, reaction networks

Jurriaan Huskens

University of Twente

Jurriaan Huskens

University of Twente

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

We work on the understanding of how nanosystems interact at the molecular scale, in particular at the crossroads between chemistry, physics, biology and technology. An example is the binding of the influenza virus at a cell membrane, and to relate its molecular properties to evolutionary backgrounds. In the future we aim to expand our toolbox to artificial cells and tissues to unravel processes at the molecular scale.

Molecular Interactions, Multivalency, Surface Chemistry, Nanotechnology

Dennis Höning

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Origins Center

Dennis Höning

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Origins Center

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

I work on the interior and global evolution of Earth and other rocky planets. I explore interactions between reservoirs such as the influence of life on global volatile cycles. My goal is to understand how inhabited planets differ from lifeless planets and to use this knowledge to search for life beyond Earth.

Planetary evolution, Habitability, Astrobiology

J

Monique de Jager

Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW)

Monique de Jager

Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW)

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

I have worked on collective cooperative and movement behaviour in self-organized mussel beds. I would like to further research the origins of group-level cooperative behaviours, especially in the context of the currently rapidly changing world.

eco-evolutionary dynamics, movement ecology

Mazi Jalaal

University of Amsterdam

Mazi Jalaal

University of Amsterdam

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

I would like to work more on the evolution from a soft condensed matter perspective. I am also planning to work on planet formation, also from a soft-matter perspective.

Physics of fluids, Soft Matter Physics, Biophysics

K

Inga Kamp

University of Groningen

Inga Kamp

University of Groningen

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

I like to understand how planets form from the disks of gas and dust around young stars. My focus within the ORIGINS centre is on connecting the chemical composition of the disk to that of the building blocks of planets and eventually the planets themselves. I do this by observing the gas, ice and dust component  in planet forming disks and combining this with radiation thermo-chemical disk models to interpret observational data. From there, I extrapolate to the ongoing planet forming processes in the mid plane of these disks that are often "hidden to direct astronomical observations".

formation of planetary systems

Inge Loes ten Kate

Chair Steering Committee

Utrecht University

Inge Loes ten Kate

Chair Steering Committee

Utrecht University

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

I am very much interested in the relation between planet and life. On one hand I am interested in the role of the planet in the origin of life: What are the minimal conditions needed for life to start, what is the role of delivered material, especially organics and water, which geochemical processes transitioned into biochemical processes? In my group we use two experimental facilities to study several of these processes: a planetary surface simulation chamber and a hydrothermal vent-on-a-chip. On the other hand I am interested in the role of life in planetary evolution: would the Earth have developed the same without life, could certain geological, Earth specific processes serve as signatures of life?
(photo: PAAR Photography 2019)

Planetary science, astrobiology

Nathalie Katsonis

University of Groningen

Nathalie Katsonis

University of Groningen

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

Swimming cells follow helical trajectories - including bacteria, zooplankton, sperm cells, ciliates and protozoa. We use minimal models of swimming cells to research the rules that govern their motile behavior in water. One of our conclusions is that the operation of artificial molecular machines can steer this helical motion in specific directions.

chemistry

Henning Klaasen

University of Groningen

Henning Klaasen

University of Groningen

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

Self-Replication is one of the processes crucial for the evolution of life from non-living matter. Most probably, an evolutionary process involving mutation, selection and recombination was part of this transition. It is thus necessary to investigate the behavior of a system with different replicators and their responds to selection factors.

Sef-Replicators in Origin of Life and Surface Chemistry

Maarten Kleinhans

Utrecht University

Maarten Kleinhans

Utrecht University

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

Morphology that emerges from flowing water and other matter, and feedbacks between life forms and planetary surface processes that modify landforms.

Biogeomorphology

Gijsje Koenderink

Delft University of Technology

Gijsje Koenderink

Delft University of Technology

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

Our aim is to understand how the cytoskeletal framework of cells and the extracellular matrix framework of tissues determine the unique mechanical behavior of human cells and tissues. We contribute to the nationwide effort to build a minimal synthetic cell (Basyc) capable of autonomous division, and also translate our research in biomedical applications such as tissue (re)generation. Finally, we pursue the design of new materials with life-like properties.

cell and tissue biophysics

Nina Kopacz

Utrecht University

Nina Kopacz

Utrecht University

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

Macromolecular carbon comprises a large part of the organic content of carbonaceous chondrites, and as such has been delivered in significant quantities to the early Earth (4.5-3.8 Ga), a volume comparable to that of the organic carbon produced endogenously. The enormous volume of extraterrestrially delivered organic matter begs the question of whether it was used to generate the molecules which were important for prebiotic chemistry, eventually leading to the origin of life. As a large part of this ET organic matter is in macromolecular form and embedded within a mineral matrix, we ask whether these stable carbon structures would have been liberated and broken down into biologically more relevant molecules under planetary surface conditions of the early Earth.

Meteoritics, Planetary Science

Ivan Kryven

Utrecht University

Ivan Kryven

Utrecht University

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

I am interested in mathematical modelling of chemical evolution and complex reaction networks that may emerge from several basic compounds. To this end I use graph theory, dynamical systems, and automatically generated reaction networks.

Graph automata, Dynamical Systems, Reaction Networks

L

Liedewij Laan

Member Steering Committee

TU Delft

Liedewij Laan

Member Steering Committee

TU Delft

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

As pioneers of the emerging field of evolutionary cell biophysics, we aim to understand how the building blocks of a cell constrain and facilitate evolution of cellular functions. The function we focus on is symmetry breaking in budding yeast. We do experimental evolution, quantitative cell biology and modeling in live cells in combination with minimal in vitro systems to understand the molecular mechanisms of adaptive mutations and to predict fitness, both with bottom-up (biophysics) and top-down (statistical) approaches.

cell biophysics, predicting evolution, minimal synthetic systems

Joyce Lebbink

Erasmus MC

Joyce Lebbink

Erasmus MC

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

We study the molecular mechanism of DNA mismatch repair by reconstitution of the reaction from individually purified proteins and DNA components in the test tube. In this way we can study order, timing and control of different reaction steps and correlate with predictions from stochastic modelling approaches. This integrated approach allows us to unravel how this important cellular pathway has evolved in different organisms.
biochemistry; DNA repair

Niels Ligterink

University of Bern

Niels Ligterink

University of Bern

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

With laboratory experiments, telescope observations, and the development of planetary science instruments, I study molecules in various stages of star and planet formation that may be involved in the emergence of life or indicate its presence. More specifically, I want to understand the physical chemical aspects of these molecules, such as their formation mechanisms, destruction routes, and interaction with their environment.

Astrophysics, Planetary Science Instrumentation

Saskia Lindhoud

University of Twente

Saskia Lindhoud

University of Twente

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

I am a physical chemist and work on phase separation in complex systems. I would like to work on is establishing a primordial plausible route via which macromolecules i.e., peptides and polynucleotides could have formed by compartmentalisation of the simplest molecules present in the primordial broth. I hypothesise that by dry/wet cycling of these condensates amino acids could form peptides and polynucleotides can form via primitive primordial chain reactions.

physical chemistry

Harold Linnartz

Leiden Observatory / Leiden University

Harold Linnartz

Leiden Observatory / Leiden University

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

In my research work I use laboratory experiments to address the chemical processes that result in molecule formation under inter- and circumstellar conditions. A special focus is on the formation of molecules relevant to life, water and COMs, complex organic molecules that are considered building blocks of (pre)biotic species.

Laboratory astrophysics, astrochemistry, molecular spectroscopy

Amy Louca

Leiden University

Amy Louca

Leiden University

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

My work is focussed on the high-energy view of exoplanets, studying the impact of high energy EUV environments and extreme mass loss. For the habitability of planets this will be relevant as most known stars are identified as active M-dwarfs and thus might affect their planet companions' atmospheres.

Atmospheric modelling

M

Martine Maan

University of Groningen

Martine Maan

University of Groningen

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

Animal behaviour, evolution of animal signals, sexual selection and mate choice, sensory ecology, phenotypic plasticity, speciation, biodiversity, urban ecology & evolution

evolutionary biology

Jan van Maarseveen

Universiteit van Amsterdam

Jan van Maarseveen

Universiteit van Amsterdam

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

Photosynthesis is the key of all life on earth. Before that, electrons were extracted from sulfur or from Iron. How did those first extremely simple redox reactions go creating the first building blocks of life is a highly intriguing question for me!

Synthetic Organic Chemistry

Omer Markovitch

University of Groningen, Origins Center

Omer Markovitch

University of Groningen, Origins Center

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

Studying the origins of life by extending principles from evolutionary biology to chemical replicators

Systems Chemistry, Prebiotic evolution, Computational chemistry, Artificial life, Water structure and dynamics

Maria Laura Mascotti

University of Groningen

Maria Laura Mascotti

University of Groningen

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

My research project is about unveiling the cofactor dependent enzymes present in the last universal common ancestor (LUCA) and to experimentally resurrect and characterize them.

Molecular Evolution, Evolutionary Biochemistry, Molecular Biology

Paul Mason

Utrecht University

Paul Mason

Utrecht University

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

- Tracing the earliest evidence for life in the geological record
- Constraining environmental conditions (atmospheric and ocean chemistry, hydrothermal vent chemistry) on the early Earth and determining their relevance for origin of life studies
- Developing chemical and isotopic biosignatures/biomarkers to trace the potential presence of extraterrestrial life

Early Earth Geology and Geochemistry

James W. McAllister

Leiden University

James W. McAllister

Leiden University

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

I am interested in different possible approaches to define "life" and their implications for the concepts of origin of life and non-terran life. I am also interested in philosophical accounts of consciousness and the possibility of machine consciousness. I am keen to develop collaboration with other Origins Center researchers on these topics.

Philosophy of Science

Melissa McClure

Leiden University

Melissa McClure

Leiden University

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

I study observationally how much bulk solid C, N, O, and S are incorporated into forming planetesimals. I have developed a technique to measure (roughly) which solids are being retained in protoplanetary disks, which is the first step in planet formation. In the future I will study how chemically complex these solids can be, using the James Webb Space Telescope.

Astrophysics, spectroscopy

Jeroen Meijer

Utrecht University

Jeroen Meijer

Utrecht University

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

emergence and predictability of eco-evolutionary dynamics in complex microbial communities, using modeling and metagenomics.

Evolutionary Biology, Metagenomics, Modeling, Microbial Communities, Eco-evolutionary Dynamics

Roeland Merks

Leiden University

Roeland Merks

Leiden University

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

I am interested in the origins of multicellular life. How did single cells decide to collaborate in multicellular structures? How did task division originate, such as the cell differentiation into neurons, muscle cells, blood vessel cells, and so forth? How is it possible that somitic cells give up their own chance to contribute to the next generation in favour of a small number of germ cells? And why do somitic cells not attempt to escape their supporting role more often, such as in cancer? We address these questions using mathematical and computational modeling.

Computational Biology, Theoretical Biology, Cell-Based Modeling, Morphogenesis, Angiogenesis

Yamila Miguel

Leiden University

Yamila Miguel

Leiden University

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

Exoplanets are the last frontier to search for life in the Universe. I am working in the charaterisation of exoplanet atmospheres and therefore very interesting in the origin of life and on how to detect lifeforms remotely.

(Exo)planet atmospheres and interiors

O

Patrick Onck

University of Groningen

Patrick Onck

University of Groningen

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

We are working on the multiscale molecular modelling of a range of biological processes, including liquid-liquid phase separation, molecular self-replication, disorder-order transitions in proteins and nuclear transport. We use coarse-grained molecular dynamics to capture the relevant length and scale scales aimed at an enhanced molecular understanding of life's essential biophysical mechanisms.

Molecular modeling

Yuliia Orlova

University of Amsterdam

Yuliia Orlova

University of Amsterdam

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

Combining expertise from mathematics, chemistry and biology, I work on a computational approach to explore metabolic networks, and look for network features that could potentially indicate the emergence of life. Not limiting our research to the origin of life on Earth, I aim to explore minimal properties of life and look for alternative compounds and networks that could fulfill those properties with the use of network theory and computer modeling.

Reaction networks, graph theory, dynamical systems, organic chemistry, biochemistry

Sijbren Otto

Member Steering Committee

University of Groningen

Sijbren Otto

Member Steering Committee

University of Groningen

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

Our long-term aim is to make life de-novo. We are working on the integration of self-replication with metabolism and compartmentalization while operating the system far from equilibrium (in a replication-destruction regime) allowing it to undergo Darwinian evolution. Through these efforts a plausible path to a completely synthetic form of life is starting to be unveiled.

chemistry, systems chemistry, origins of life, synthesis of life

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Dewy Peters

Kapteyn Astronomical Institute

Dewy Peters

Kapteyn Astronomical Institute

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

Currently, I'm interested in the habitability of white dwarf exoplanets. In this context, I would like to investigate the implications of planetary nebulae on abiogenesis or on life surviving post-main-sequence stellar evolution.

General Astronomy

Annemieke Petrignani

University of Amsterdam

Annemieke Petrignani

University of Amsterdam

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

My research focusses on the organic (physical) chemistry in space to the origins of life on planets. I am interested in the fingerprints of extra-terrestrial hydrocarbon molecules, their evolution, and role as possible partakers in prebiotic chemistry.

Molecular astrophysics, spectroscopy

Bob Planqué

Member Steering Committee

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Bob Planqué

Member Steering Committee

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

I try to understand how single celled organisms deal with changes in their environment, using mathematical modeling. How does their cellular organisation allow them to control their fate, control stochastic disturbances caused by others or indeed by themselves, and remain competitive in an ever-changing world?

mathematical biology

R

Frank van Ruitenbeek

University of Twente

Frank van Ruitenbeek

University of Twente

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

Identification of the drivers for early life's origin and development in hydrothermal systems and other geological environments.

Hydrothermal systems, Infrared imaging spectroscopy; Geological remote sensing

S

Sajitha Sasidharan

University of Groningen

Sajitha Sasidharan

University of Groningen

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

As an oLife post-doctoral fellow, I am interested in understanding the role of cellular communication in the origin and evolution of life. Communication through vesicles is a conserved phenomenon across the three domains of life. In my project, I will try to understand the adaptation of the communication system (through vesicles) in syntrophic partners at different environmental conditions. Also, I am interested in investigating the mechanical properties of the vesicles across the three domains of life, and in the long term, I will be designing artificial vesicles to understand the range of interactions among the syntrophic partners.

Molecular Biophysics

Shraddha Shitut

Leiden University, Origins Center

Shraddha Shitut

Leiden University, Origins Center

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

Evolutionary change within and between species arises gradually via the slow accumulation of mutations. However, large changes via so-called major transitions can give rise to fundamentally new forms of organismal complexity. Using a combination of experimental evolution, synthetic biology and predictive mathematical modelling, I aim to tackle these unknowns, more specifically the initial steps from simple (single genome) to complex cells (multiple chromosomes).

Microbial ecology and evolution, bacterial metabolism

Berend Snel

Utrecht University

Berend Snel

Utrecht University

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

My main scientific interest is in utilizing "omics" data and especially genomes to understand function and evolution of complex biological systems. We first do that by in depth phylogenomics of specific eukaryotic cellular processes, most prominently the kinetochore and the core transcriptional machinery. Inspired by findings from these in depth studies, we seek to contextualize the evolutionary phenomena we observe. Hence we also study general genome evolution of core eukaryotic cellular processes including their origin during eukaryogenesis.

Bioinformatics, comparative genomics, evolution of cellular processes, deep homologies

Ignas Snellen

Leiden Observatory, Leiden University

Ignas Snellen

Leiden Observatory, Leiden University

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

Extrasolar planets, atmospheres, search for extraterrestrial life

Astrophysics

Evan Spruijt

Radboud University Nijmegen

Evan Spruijt

Radboud University Nijmegen

Website

Bio:


          

Networks:

Fields of interest:

Compartmentalization is a cornerstone of all living systems. We aim to understand how life-like functions such as self-replication, growth and division, could have emerged in simple compartments formed by phase separation under prebiotic conditions. We have developed several minimal model systems that show active growth, dissipative adaptation and self-division. Our ultimate goal is to be able to create a self-proliferating protocell from a mixture of non-living building blocks.

systems chemistry, origins of life, self-assembly, protocells, synthetic cells

T

Floris van der Tak

Member Steering Committee

SRON & University of Groningen

Floris van der Tak

Member Steering Committee

SRON & University of Groningen

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

My group studies the chemistry of star- and planet-forming regions, and the origin of habitability on planets. We observe clouds, stars, and (exo)planets with ground- and space-based telescopes at infrared and radio wavelengths. We compare the measured composition of planetary atmospheres and planetary systems in formation to predictions of astro- and geochemical models.

astrophysics, astrochemistry, astrobiology

V

Gijs A. Verdoes Kleijn

University of Groningen

Gijs A. Verdoes Kleijn

University of Groningen

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

1. Near-Earth Objects
2. Astrophysics of habitability. In particular the astrophysics of the long-term past and future of Earth's life.

Near-Earth Objects. Astrophysics of habitability

Bert Vermeersen

TU Delft and Royal NIOZ

Bert Vermeersen

TU Delft and Royal NIOZ

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

Search for habitability of icy moons in our Solar System and around exoplanets

Planetary Sciences and Exploration, Geodynamics

Marjon de Vos

Rijksuniversiteit Groningen - GELIFES

Marjon de Vos

Rijksuniversiteit Groningen - GELIFES

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

Can ecological interactions inform on community formation and future evolution?

Microbial eco-evolutionary biology

Renske Vroomans

University of Amsterdam, Origins Center

Renske Vroomans

University of Amsterdam, Origins Center

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

I work on the evolution of multicellularity. I am interested in the evolution of early developmental programs. Once cells find themselves in a multicellular cluster, how do they start dividing tasks and making sure that the right cells are in the right place? This is connected to the evolution of body axes: the head-tail axes in animals for instance.

Evolutionary developmental biology, theoretical biology

W

Bregje Wertheim

Member Steering Committee

University of Groningen

Bregje Wertheim

Member Steering Committee

University of Groningen

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

I am fascinated by the genomic basis of evolution: how the genome shapes and affects the ability of organisms to adapt. It is only since a decade that technology allowed us to start quantifying genomic variation within and among species. In my research, I have been employing state-of-the-art technologies and analyses to investigate the true complexity of evolutionary processes and answer long-standing questions in evolution, mapping how genomes change during evolution and how these changes are manifested in gene networks.

Evolutionary genomics of ecological interactions

Wim van Westrenen

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Wim van Westrenen

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

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I am interested in rocky planet formation and early evolution. In the context of the Origins Centre I would like to learn more about the geological context for origin of life by studying the interplay between the chemistry and dynamics of proto-planetary disks and the interior structure, surface and atmospheric properties of rocky exoplanets.

Aardwetenschappen, planetary science

Meike Wortel

University of Amsterdam, Origins Center (2018-2020)

Meike Wortel

University of Amsterdam, Origins Center (2018-2020)

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How do species evolve and how is this affected by interactions with other species? I focus on micro-organisms and host-microbe interactions, and their interaction through metabolism.

Evolutionary systems biology

Juntian Wu

University of Groningen

Juntian Wu

University of Groningen

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Fields of interest:

My research focus on exploring the origins of life and Darwinian evolution by using dynamic combinatorial chemistry.

Supramolecular Chemistry

Gijs Wuite

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Gijs Wuite

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Website

Networks:

Fields of interest:

My group is part of the Physics of Living Systems Section in the faculty of Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. The research in the group focuses on exploring DNA-proteins interactions and biophysical/biomechanical properties of viral capsids & cells. The aim is to work with increasingly more complex assemblies of proteins to investigate the emergent properties from these systems. This approach bridges experimental systems biology and single-molecule manipulation techniques. We use a variety of techniques such as optical tweezers, AFM, and single-molecule fluorescence as well as combinations of these techniques. The data obtained are related to biochemical studies and used for theoretical modeling.

Biological Physics, Optical Tweezers, Single-molecule Fluorescent Microscopy, Physical Virology

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