Student: Emma Shipley, Undergraduate Student in Biochemistry, University of Northern Iowa
Research Mentor: Dr. Joshua Sebree
Prebiotic Potential of Aerosols
We are examining the “manna from heaven” hypothesis that early life ate compounds that came from the sky. Our aerosol analogs of the atmosphere of the Early Earth are created in a photochemical reaction chamber using combinations of gases, including CO, CH4, O2, and CO2. We use isotopically doped gases with the goal of elucidating the kinetic mechanisms of formation of the various products. The aerosols are then analyzed using GC/MS QQQ both to determine mechanisms as well as to find compounds that were potential food sources for early life on Earth, including carboxylic acids, nucleotides, and amino acids. Some simple compounds have been formed in photochemical aerosols, including glycine, guanidine, and urea.