Science Café Cleveland presents


Origins of Life:

Solving the Puzzle of How Life on Earth Began


JULY 13, 2015




Nita Sahai, Ph.D.

Department of Polymer Science, University of Akron





One of the most profound questions asked by all societies over all time is, “Where did we come from?” Mythologies, legends, and scientific approaches have been taken to address this most fundamental aspect of the human psyche. The scientific approach indicates that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old, and life probably originated around 4.2 - 3.5 billion years ago. The origins of life involved processes in which prebiotic organic compounds, supplied by the environment, self-organized into “protocells.” For the present purposes, a protocell is defined as an entity enclosed by a membrane, and which is capable of both metabolism for self-maintenance and of reproduction with genetic mutation. In extant biology, many of these processes are promoted by specific proteins called enzymes. However, enzymes are themselves produced by cells, thus creating a chicken-and-egg problem. Before biology, what could have promoted the reactions essential to the emergence of protocells? In addition to atmospheric gases and water, prebiotic Earth was composed of rocks, which are composites of minerals. Could the surfaces of some minerals, with specific chemical compositions and crystal structures, have played a role in the origins of life? In other words, could minerals have affected the self-assembly of the protocell membrane and/or promoted metabolism and reproduction, thus facilitating the transition from geochemistry to bio(geo)chemistry? Dr. Sahai will attempt to answer these questions in this month’s Cleveland Science Café.






"Discovery demystifies origin of life phenomenon," ScienceDaily, March 11, 2015. University of Akron


"Origin of life: Chemistry of seabed's hot vents could explain emergence of life," ScienceDaily, April 27, 2015. University College London


"Synthetic biology yields clues to evolution and origin of life," ScienceDaily, February 25, 2009. University of California - Santa Cruz


"The Origins of Life: From Geochemistry to Biochemistry" - YouTube Video

-Nita Sahai, October 7, 2014. The Origins Science Scholars Program, Institute for the Science of Origins


"Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Lifes Origins" - YouTube Video

-Robert M. Hazen, November 6, 2008, Year of Darwin Series, Sixma Xi Annual Lecture





The Tasting Room at Great Lakes Brewing Company

2701 Carroll Avenue

Cleveland, Ohio 44113



July 13, 2015

Doors will be open 5:30 - 9:00 PM (Last call at 8:45PM). Presentation and discussion is 7:00 - 8:00 PM.

*Please note that the usual 'limited menu' options will NOT be available at this cafe. However, snacks will be provided, beer will still be available to purchase, and as always, all are welcome to dine-in at the restaurant before the cafe OR purchase take out from the restaurant and bring it to the cafe with them.*


*Please Note* A few of our cafes have approached capacity and/or standing room only. If you want to be 100% sure to get in and get a good seat, you might want to arrive a bit early.


WHO: Sponsored by Case Western Reserve University chapter of Sigma Xi, WCPN ideastream, and Great Lakes Brewing Company



Click here to download a pdf flyer of the event