Biography

What are we? How did we come to be? Like many people, these questions have fascinated me ever since I was a kid. As I got into science, these questions morphed into wanting to understand how complex organization emerges and evolves in the universe. A training in basic chemistry and molecular physics, combined with deep interests in evolutionary theory, natural history and complex systems science eventually led me to the field of astrochemistry. I hoped that studying networks of organic chemistry occurring during star-formation and leading up to planet formation would lead to general insights about how complex chemical organization emerges from the properties of molecules and reactions, and in particular how life emerged on Earth. Wanting to deepen my understanding of the nature and emergence of life then led me into biology, where I began studying the evolution of metabolism. Initially my goal was to trace metabolism back to its roots from extant life, and to look for general connections to the prebiotic chemistry I had been studying previously. It became increasingly clear that metabolism provides a powerful lens for studying life across levels of organization, from molecules to cells, ecosystems, and up to the Earth’s biogeochemical cycles. This has led me down a path of studying evolutionary and ecological theory, systems biology, microbiology, oceanography, geochemistry and Earth history. Moving across disciplines in this way has allowed me to appreciate the opportunities that exist in helping to translate concepts and approaches across them. Along the way I obtained a MSc in chemistry from the University of Amsterdam, a PhD  in chemical physics from Caltech, and held postdoctoral positions at the Santa Fe Institute and MIT. Details can be found in my CV.

CV (updated 5/2017)