Autocatalytic Sets and the Origin of Life
Dr. Wim Hordijk
September 22, 2010
207 Votey Hall
The origin of life is one of the most fundamental, but also one of the most difficult problems in science. Despite differences between various proposed scenarios, one common element seems to be the emergence of an autocatalytic set or cycle at some stage. However, there is still much disagreement as to how likely it is that such self-sustaining sets could arise "spontaneously." This disagreement is largely caused by the lack of formal models. In this talk I will introduce a formal framework of catalytic reaction systems and autocatalytic sets, and then present both theoretical and computational results which indicate that the emergence of autocatalytic sets is highly likely, even for very moderate levels of catalysis.
Dr. Hordijk is originally from the Netherlands, where he earned his B.Sc. in Operations Research from the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. He then went to the USA to work as a graduate fellow at the Santa Fe Institute while completing his PhD in Computer Science at the University of New Mexico. He continued as a postdoctoral researcher at the Santa Fe Institute, where he still maintains ties, and has since been funded to work on many diverse projects in complexity science including genetic algorithms, fitness landscapes, cellular automata, phylogenetics, and autocatalytic sets at a variety of academic institutions around the world, including USA, Brazil, New Zealand, France, India, South Africa, UK, most recently as a Visiting Research Associate at the Center for Computational Systems Biology at Fudan University in China.