About the Research Team

Christopher Southgate
Christopher Southgate
Project Leader

Christopher Southgate trained in biochemistry at Cambridge, doing his Ph.D. with Hal Dixon, and then worked with R.V. Wolfenden at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and subsequently did further work at Bath University. Since 1993 he has taught on the relationship between the natural sciences and Christian theology. His long-standing interest in the origin of life was combined with investigations into biosemiotics in three STARS grants held with Andrew Robinson between 2007-10. Their general theoretical treatment of interpretation was published in Biology and Philosophy as Robinson and Southgate (2010) and the proof of concept modelling study was published in Biological Theory as Lui et al (2010). The first experimental study of the application of their work to proto-life studies was published as Lehman et al (2014). Chris is Associate Professor in the College of Humanities at the University of Exeter.

Niles Lehman
Niles Lehman
Project Co-Leader

Niles Lehman received his BS (Chemistry; 1984) and MA (Biochemistry; 1986) from UC Berkeley, and a PhD from UCLA in 1990. His interested have been on molecular evolution in various forms, from prebiotic chemistry to population genetics. His research lab at Portland State University is set up for the in vitro evolution of RNA. Currently his work focuses on manifesting classical evolutionary biological principles in chemical systems as a means to explore the critical events during the origins of life on the Earth. Recently he has been interested in the roles of recombination and network dynamics in driving naked RNA evolution. He has served on the editorial boards of Life and Astrobiology, and has been the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Molecular Evolution since 2012. He is currently the president of the International Society for the Study of the Origins of Life (ISSOL).

Sara Walker
Sara Walker
Director of Modelling

Sara Walker is a theoretical physicist and astrobiologist, researching the origin and nature of life on Earth and as it might exist on other worlds. She is Deputy Director of ASU’s Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science and an Assistant Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. She is also Fellow of the ASU -Santa Fe Institute Center for Biosocial Complex Systems, Co-Founder of the astrobiology-themed social website SAGANet.org, and is a member of the Board of Directors of Blue Marble Space. She is active in public engagement in science, with recent appearances on “Through the Wormhole” and NPR’s Science Friday.

Andrew Robinson
Andrew Robinson
Consultant on Theory

Andrew Robinson took a degree in Physiology at the University of Bristol before qualifying in Medicine. His PhD concerned the metaphysical and theological out-workings of the field of semiotics, the study of signs, representations and interpretations. His particular interest is in the school of semiotic theory deriving from the work of the philosopher-scientist C.S. Peirce, including the application of semiotics to thinking about biological systems (biosemiotics). Andrew was Co-Principal Investigator with Christopher Southgate on the STARS project ‘Interpretation and the Origin of Life’ (2007-2010), which involved developing a general naturalized definition of interpretation and applying this to in silico and in vitro proto-biotic interpretative systems. Andrew is Honorary Research Fellow in the College of Humanities at the University of Exeter.