Emergent/Dynamic Autocatalytic Systems and Systems Chemistry

Life is the most fascinating of all complex systems, and not simply because we are biological beings. Living things are capable of faithful self-replicaiton. At the same time, the phenomenon on life relies on diversity and ability to adapt. Species originate through the evolutionary process. And at the molecular level, Nature is capable of screening combinatorial libraries beyond the dreams of any chemist. We are interested in life-inspired compartmentalized autocatalytic systems, or systems that give rise to cooperative catalysis and function through confinement.

The capacity for self-replication is a fundamental property of life. The transition from simple self-replicating catalytic systems to life as we know it remains one of the most tantalizing unexplored questions of modern chemistry. We are developing a range of functional surfactants and macromolecules that assemble into multi-molecular aggregates capable of cooperative catalysis and, potentially, functional self-replication. These “systems chemistry” models will be used to explore the capacity of relatively simple systems to perform complex chemistry, self-replicate, and undergo natural selection.