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Spark of Life: The Miller-Urey Experiment - 60 Years of Origin of Life Research

This talk is part of our continuing Young Researchers series.

Our Open Seating Policy will be in effect for this meetup.
We will be upstairs in the Wine Lounge.

Attendees will receive an email with on-line form to pre-order dinner items.


Spark of Life: The Miller-Urey Experiment - 60 Years of Origin of Life Research

Eric Parker, Ph.D. Graduate Student
Georgia Tech School of Chemistry
Center for Chemical Evolution

The nature of the origins of life is one of the most intrinsically fascinating scientific questions remaining.

In 1871 Charles Darwin envisioned a "warm little pond" where organic compounds important for life may have originated. Later, researchers in the 1920s proposed the concept of a "primordial soup", describing primitive terrestrial oceans that contained organic compounds that may have facilitated chemical evolution.

However, these two early hypotheses were not supported by experimental evidence until 1953 when Stanley Miller reported the formation of the building blocks of life using simulated primordial Earth conditions. Miller's ground-breaking study used a custom-built glass apparatus to mimic the atmosphere-ocean system of the early Earth and produced amino acids by sparking a mixture of water, ammonia, methane, and hydrogen.

This talk will revisit Miller's classic experiment, highlight the recent discovery and analyses of archived Miller samples that were previously unreported, and discuss future experimental endeavors. Miller's pioneering work ushered in the era of experimental studies on, and brought legitimacy to, origin of life research. After six decades Miller's work continues to provide new perspectives on the origins of life.

About our Speaker

Eric Parker is a graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. in Chemistry at Georgia Tech, where he conducts early Earth and origin of life research within the Center for Chemical Evolution. He earned a B.S. in Environmental Chemistry from UC San Diego and a M.S. in Earth System Science from UC Irvine. Eric's research background also includes such topics as waste water treatment, the search for life on Mars, and atmospheric chemistry.

Further Reading

"Lost" Miller Experiment Gives Pungent Clue to Origin of Life (NASA Goddard)

Primordial Soup’s Missing Ingredient May Be Sulfur (Wired)

Origin of Life: An Old Experiment Yields New Clues (Time)

Primordial soup gets spicier (UC Newsroom)

Volcanoes May Have Provided Sparks Of First Life (ScienceDaily)

Photo top-right: The original box containing archived spark discharge samples prepared by Stanley Miller in 1958. (Jeffrey Bada and Robert Benson/Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California at San Diego)


Parking and Such

Java Vino is located diagonally across the street from Manuel's Tavern. There is parking behind the building and on Williams Mill Road across the street. Manuel's reserves the use of their lots at all times, but parking there hasn't presented a problem for our guests so far.

Enter the cafe on the street level and let them know that your order will count toward our collective tab.

Join or login to comment.

  • Danny

    Outstanding speaker. Outstanding subject. A credit to the organization. Would have been happy to pay for a little more comfort for those that arrived later than we did.

    May 12, 2013

  • barbara s.

    i thought the talk was terrific and the speaker was excellent in the Q $ A

    May 9, 2013

  • Nathan

    Very informative.

    May 9, 2013

  • Jonathan M.

    The speaker was good but we needed more room.

    May 8, 2013

  • Barbara M

    Excellent presenter and material.

    May 8, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    An excellent presentation. The guy clearly knew all aspects of his topic and presented them clearly.

    1 · May 8, 2013

  • Marwan

    Sorry, Cant make it

    May 8, 2013

  • Marwan

    Sorry, I cant make it. Hope someone else can attend.

    May 8, 2013

  • joan

    Flight home has been delayed. Hope the waiting list people can take my spot!

    May 8, 2013

  • Jason D.

    Sorry I can't make it!!

    May 7, 2013

  • Javier S.

    what an interesting topic!

    April 25, 2013

  • James F. B.

    I've always liked my science close to the root.

    April 22, 2013

  • Stefanie T.

    Extremely sorry for not being able to attend. Will attend my daughter's Spring Concert instead.

    April 21, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Just me....

    April 17, 2013

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