Scientific Program

Introductory talks will start the sessions dedicated to each of the above mentioned topics, followed by presentations of current state-of-the-art research. Towards the end of each session we plan to have general discussions to identify consensus on some questions and to find possible problems to solve by connecting the various fields.


Six sessions are planned:


1. Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning: The first steps toward chemical complexity: from pre-stellar cores to protoplanetary disks (observations, theories and experiments will be presented in this session, with the aim of linking the various steps in the process of star and planet formation and unveil the chemical evolution).


2. Tuesday afternoon until Wednesday morning: The Solar System (recent results on comets, meteorites, asteroids and moons will be summarized here, with particular emphasis on organic matter. Links to the previous phases described in the previous session will also be highlighted).


3. Wednesday afternoon: Exoplanets and habitability (the characteristics of other stellar systems will be presented, with particular attention paid to exoplanet atmospheres and their chemical composition. Description of theories and predictions for future observations of Terrestrial-like planet atmospheres will also be included in the program).


4. Thursday morning: Primitive Earth and conditions to host life (for life to develop, chemical raw materials are necessary. Because data regarding the atmospheric, oceanic, or geological conditions on the pre-biological Earth are scarce, it is difficult to determine conclusively whether terrestrially synthesized organic material or extraterrestrial molecules were more significant for life’s origin. However, life Earth emerged rapidly. Recent findings discovered 3.7 billion year old stromatolite fossils in the world’s oldest sedimentary rocks in the Isua Greenstone Belt along the edge of Greenland’s icecap. Since then life on Earth has adapted to nearly every explored environment. The progress and the revolutionary quality and quantity of data on “extreme life” on Earth have transformed our view of habitability beyond Earth. Past conditions of Mars may have allowed life to develop. In particular, the earliest liquid-water rich era would present the most habitable conditions. Investigations of the oldest rocks on Earth, the impact history of asteroids and comets, the search for early biosignatures, and space missions to investigating habitability in our Solar System provide major opportunities to understand the prebiotic reservoirs and the conditions for the emergence of life on Earth (and Mars)).


5. Thursday afternoon: The assembly of prebiotic molecules and 6. Friday morning: Steps towards evolution (solving the origin of life means to bridge from early geology to nonequilibrium processes and early molecules that can give raise to Darwinian evolution at the nanoscale. Experimental approaches to this large puzzle will be presented and new links between disciplines and and theoretical approaches discussed. The aim is to come up with new, connecting experiments).


Invited Introductory Talks (IIT): 35min + 10min questions

Invited Talks (IT): 25min + 5min questions

Contributed Talks (CT): 12min + 3min questions


MONDAY afternoon, March 19th

The first steps toward chemical complexity: from pre-stellar cores to protoplanetary disks. I.


14:15 - 14:30 Welcome

14:30 - 15:15 IIT: Ewine van Dishoeck, Chemical processes and evolution from clouds to disks.

15:15 - 15:45 IT: Arnaud Belloche, Molecular complexity in star forming regions.

15:45 - 16:15 IT: Eric Herbst, Forming complex molecules in early stages of star formation.

16:15 - 17:00 Coffee break and posters

17:00 - 17:15 CT: Maite Beltrán, The chemical and physical structure of the hot molecular core G31.41+0.31.

17:15 - 17:30 CT: Francesco Fontani, Carbon-chain growth in the Solar-type protocluster OMC-2 FIR4.

17:30 - 17:45 CT: Brett McGuire, From one to two-dimensional interstellar carbon: a synthesis of laboratory, observations, and theory.

17:45 - 18:30 General discussion, led by van Dishoeck, Belloche and Herbst

19:00 - 21:00 Dinner and group discussion



TUESDAY morning, March 20th

The first steps toward chemical complexity: from pre-stellar cores to protoplanetary disks. II.


09:00 - 09:45 IIT: Nadia Balucani, Gas phase chemistry and molecular complexity: how far do they go?

09:45 - 10:15 IT: Izaskun Jiménez-Serra, Chemical complexity in pre-stellar cores.

10:15 - 10:45 IT: François Dulieu, Formation of interstellar gas molecules on dust grains.

10:45 - 11:30 Coffee break and posters

11:30 - 11:45 CT: Claudio Codella, Protostellar shocks as factories of interstellar complex organic molecules.

11:45 - 12:00 CT: David Quénard, Chemical modelling of formamide and methyl isocyanate in star-forming regions.

12:00 - 12:15 CT: Viviana Guzmán, Complex molecules in PDRs and protoplanetary disks.

12:15 - 12:30 CT: Máté Ádámkovics, The warm molecular region below the UV-shielded layer in disk atmospheres.

12:30 - 13:00 General discussion, led by Balucani, Jiménez-Serra, Dulieu

13:00 - 14:30 Lunch and group discussion



TUESDAY afternoon, March 20th

The Solar System. I.


14:30 - 15:15 IIT: Conel Alexander, Organics in meteorites: Interstellar, solar and/or parent body?

15:15 - 15:45 IT: Frances Westall, Prebiotic molecules in the Solar System, scenarios for the origin of life and implications for the emergence of life.

15:45 - 16:15 IT: Olivier Mousis, Formation of ices in the protosolar nebula and implications for the composition of outer planets

16:15 - 17:00 Coffee break and posters

17:00 - 17:15 CT: Grégoire Danger, Interstellar ices as a source of complex organic molecules of interplanetary Solar System objects.

17:15 - 17:30 CT: Maria Drozdovskaya, Pre- and protostellar roots of cometary volatiles.

17:30 - 17:45 CT: Jan Hendrik Bredehöft, A reaction network for Chury’s chemistry.

17:45 - 18:30 General discussion, lead by Alexander, Westall, Mousis

19:00 - 21:00 Dinner and group discussion



WEDNESDAY morning, March 21st

The Solar System. II.


09:00 - 09:45 IIT: Alessandro Morbidelli, Solar System formation and evolution: dynamical models and cosmochemical implications.

09:45 - 10:15 IT: Stefanie Milam, Remote studies of organics in cometary comae.

10:15 - 10:45 IT: Steve Charnley, Observations of Organic Chemistry on Titan.

10:45 - 11:30 Coffee break and posters

11:30 - 11:45 CT: Sergio Ioppolo, Solid state chemistry driven by 1 keV electrons.

11:45 - 12:00 CT: Yo-ling Chuang, (Sub)millimeter molecular observations of Solar System icy worlds.

12:00 - 12:15 CT: Víctor Rivilla, Phosphorus: the missing prebiotic element… found in star-forming regions and comets.

12:15 - 13:00 General discussion, led by Morbidelli, Milam, Charnley

13:00 - 14:30 Lunch and group discussion



WEDNESDAY afternoon, March 21st

Exoplanets and habitability


14:30 - 15:15 IIT: Nikku Madhusudhan, Chemical characterization of extrasolar planets.

15:15 - 15:45 IT: Christiane Helling, Dynamic and kinetic processes shaping exoplanet atmosphere chemistry.

15:45 - 16:00 CT: John Ilee, The chemical evolution of the youngest planet forming discs.

16:00 - 17:00 Coffee break and posters

17:00 - 18:00 Poster presentation

18:00 - 18:30 General discussion, led by Madhusudhan, Helling

19:00 - 21:00 Dinner and group discussion



THURSDAY morning, March 22nd

Primitive Earth and conditions to host life


09:00 - 09:45 IIT: Zita Martins, Influence of mineralogy on the preservation of biosignatures under simulated planetary conditions.

09:45 - 10:15 IT: Nathalie Carrasco, Organic chemistry in the atmosphere of the early Earth.

10:15 - 10:30 CT: Louis d’Hendecourt, From astrochemistry to astrobiology: the role of extraterrestrial ices in the build-up of a prebiotic chemistry on telluric planets.

10:30 - 11:30 Coffee break and posters

11:30 - 11:45 CT: Christof Mast, Thermal gradients – a natural choice to support the origins of life.

11:45 - 12:00 CT: Heinfried Schöler, Fluid inclusions in Archaean rocks as window to the early evolution of organic molecules on Earth.

12:00 - 12:15 CT: Bertrand Lefloch, A search for phosphorus-bearing molecules in Solar-type star forming regions.

12:15 - 13:00 General discussion, led by Martins, Carrasco

13:00 - 14:30 Lunch and group discussion



THURSDAY afternoon, March 22nd

The assembly of prebiotic molecules


14:30 - 15:15 IIT: Matthew Pawner, Prebiotic chemistry: synthesis and seletion.

15:15 - 15:45 IT: Lorenzo Botta, Prebiotic origin of nucleosides in a formamide context.

15:45 - 16:15 IT: Rebecca Turk-MacLeod, Exploring the emergence of complexity with microfluidic droplets.

16:15 - 17:00 Coffee break and posters

17:00 - 17:15 CT: Fanny Vazart, The ethanol tree: possible gas phase formation routes of glycolaldehyde, acetic acid and formic acid in ISM.

17:15 - 17:30 CT: Anthony Remijan, Recent advances in our understanding of the prebiotic molecular complexity in astronomical environments.

17:30 - 18:30 General discussion, led by Pawner, Turk-MacLeod, Botta

19:00 - 21:00 Dinner and group discussion + poster prize



FRIDAY morning, March 23rd

Steps toward evolution


09:00 - 09:45 IIT: Phil Holliger, RNA-catalyzed RNA replication.

09:45 - 10:15 IT: Ulrich Gerland, Transport reaction cycles as a prebiotic driving force.

10:15 - 10:45 IT: Hannes Mutschler, Prebiotic and synthetic RNA worlds.

10:45 - 11:30 Coffee break and posters

11:30 - 11:45 CT: Marco Saitta, From quantum computational physics to the origins of life.

11:45 - 12:00 CT: Eva Mateo-Marti, Pyrite surface pre-treatment drives amino-acids molecular interaction process

12:00 - 12:15 CT: Victor Sojo, Towards a microfluidic reactor for autonomous, microfluidic synthesis of RNA

12:15 - 13:00 General discussion, led by Holliger, Gerland, Mutschler

13:00 - 14:30 Lunch and group discussion




Long coffee breaks (45 min x 2), lunches (1.5 hours) and discussion sessions (45 min x 2) each day will give us the opportunity to discuss and make sure that the various communities interact and understand each other.


PhD students and Postdoctoral Fellows will be encouraged to attend the meeting and give contributed talks or present posters. They will have the opportunity to interact with world-class experts in the fields of star and planet formation, astrochemistry, Solar System, exoplanets and origins of life. The highly interdisciplinary environment will be particularly beneficial for young scientists, who may find new directions in their research by connecting different fields.


Aims of the WE-Heraeus-Seminar

The aims of this conference are:


1. Gather together different communities, all interested in the origins of life, and provide a highly interactive environment to allow communication and foster discussions as well as interdisciplinary collaborations.


2. Learn from each other where do we stand and what are the remaining open questions. Collect a global view of the evolution of the chemical complexity from the first steps in space until the chemistry of life on Earth.


3. Encourage students and young researchers to see the 'big picture' and motivate new ideas for future missions and experiments.