12.091/12.S593  Origin of Life Seminar Series
Undergraduate and Graduate numbers

A series of hosted lectures from leaders in the Origin of Life community, focusing on various dimensions of one of the most challenging problems in the biological and planetary sciences.  Topics include the origin of cells, metabolism, replication and proteins, as well as the geochemical conditions on the Early Earth that led to prebiotic and early biotic systems.  Enrolled students attend 4-5 seminars during IAP, actively engage in Q & A sessions with invited speakers in a panel format, and collaborate on creating an Origins of Life online blog resource highlighting the work of invited speakers. Instructor: G. Fournier

Fall Semester

12.090/12.S492   The Phylogenomic Planetary Record
Undergraduate and Graduate numbers

There are only two records of events in Earth’s deep past, that preserved within rocks, and that preserved within genomes.  This course introduces the tools of sequence-based phylogenetic analysis and molecular evolution in the context of studying this genomic record.  Topics include basic concepts of cladistics, phylogeny, and sequence evolution, construction of phylogenetic trees of genes and microbial lineages, molecular clocks, dating, and ancestral sequence reconstruction.  Special attention is given to the evolutionary history of microbial metabolisms, and their relationship to global biogeochemical cycles across Earth’s history.  Coursework includes lectures, paper discussions, and hands-on computer lab training in bioinformatics and molecular evolution data analysis. Instructor: G. Fournier