Cambridge launches new Leverhulme Centre for Life in the Universe


11-01-2022
  Artists’s impression of the rocky super-Earth HD 85512 b  Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

With a £10 million grant awarded by the Leverhulme Trust*, the University of Cambridge is to establish a new research centre dedicated to exploring the nature and extent of life in the universe.

The Leverhulme Centre for Life in the Universe will bring together an international team of scientists and philosophers, led by 2019 Nobel Laureate Professor Didier Queloz.

Thanks to simultaneous revolutions in exoplanet discoveries, prebiotic chemistry and solar system exploration, scientists can now investigate whether the Earth and the processes that made life possible are unique in the Universe.

The University has recently launched the Initiative for Planetary Science and Life in the Universe (IPLU) to enable cross-disciplinary research on planetology and life in the Universe.

Building on IPLU’s activities, the new Leverhulme Centre for Life in the Universe will support fundamental cross-disciplinary research over the next 10 years to tackle one of the great interdisciplinary challenges of our time: to understand how life emerged on Earth, whether the Universe is full of life, and ask what the nature of life is.

The Centre will include researchers from Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory, Department of Earth Sciences, Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry, Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, Institute of Astronomy, Department of Zoology, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Faculty of Divinity, and the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology.

“The Centre will act as a catalyst for the development of our vision to understanding life in the Universe through a long-term research programme that will be the driving force for international coordination of research and education,” said Queloz, Jacksonian Professor of Natural Philosophy at the Cavendish Laboratory and Director of the Centre.

Research within the Centre will focus on four themes: identifying the chemical pathways to the origins of life; characterising the environments on Earth and other planets that could act as the cradle of prebiotic chemistry and life; discovering and characterising habitable exoplanets and signatures of geological and biological evolution; and refining our understanding of life through philosophical and mathematical concepts.

*Leverhulme Trust

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Image:  Artists’s impression of the rocky super-Earth HD 85512 b

Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

Reproduced courtesy of the University of Cambridge

 

The University of Cambridge is acknowledged as one of the world's leading higher education and research institutions. The University was instrumental in the formation of the Cambridge Network and its Vice- Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, is also the President of the Cambridge Network.

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