The origins of life on Earth present some of the most intriguing questions of all time and have been a topic of active scientific research for almost a century. On January 28-29, 2021, the annual Suddath Symposium featured leaders in the field who shared their recent progress towards answering questions central to this field, including: How did RNA, polypeptides, and polysaccharides first emerge on the early Earth?
This annual symposium, in its 29th year, provides a forum for researchers to share the latest research in bioengineering and bioscience. Each year the symposium topic changes and is held to celebrate the life and contributions of F.L. “Bud” Suddath, a Georgia Tech professor who excelled at research, teaching, and in administrative roles.
The 2021 symposium “Origins and Early Evolution of Life” was co-chaired by Nicholas Hud and Loren Williams. Nicholas Hud, Ph.D., is a Regents’ professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, director of the NSF/NASA Center for Chemical Evolution, and associate director of the Petit Institute. Loren Williams, Ph.D., is a professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Georgia Tech, director of the Georgia Tech Center for the Origin of Life, and researcher at the Petit Institute.
“This year's Suddath Symposium was the perfect opportunity for us to share our latest research on the origins of life and to celebrate 10 years of the Center for Chemical Evolution, said Nicholas Hud. “Our center has been focused on a grand challenge… to discover plausible prebiotic syntheses for the polymers of life or their predecessors. Now that our center has completed 10 years, the maximum number of years that can be supported by NSF, we have a cadre of early career scientists ready to take the reins on future research efforts. It’s exciting to see the impact we have made on the field, and to share these accomplishments through the Suddath Symposium with the broader scientific community.”
The 2021 Suddath Symposium was the first in this 29 year series of symposia to go virtual with 251 attendees from 18 countries around the world.
Each year, the symposium kicks off with a presentation from a Georgia Tech Ph.D. candidate who has won the annual Suddath Memorial Award, which was established by the family, friends, and colleagues of Bud Suddath. This year’s 2021 award went to Cristian Crisan, a doctoral candidate advised by Brian Hammer, Ph.D., associate professor in the school of biological sciences at Georgia Tech.
Crisan’s presentation, “Antimicrobial Competition Dynamics of the Vibrio cholerae Type VI Secretion System,” began at 11 a.m. EST on Thursday, January 28th, and was followed by the 1 p.m. start of the 2021 Suddath Symposium on “Origins and Early Evolution of Life.”
The lineup of “Origins and Early Evolution of Life” speakers included:
- Keynote presentation by Nobel laureate Jack Szostak, Ph.D. – Harvard Medical School, Harvard University, Massachusetts General Hospital
- Donna Blackmond, Ph.D. – Scripps Research Institute
- Facundo Fernandez, Ph.D. – Georgia Tech
- Vicki Grassian, Ph.D. – University of California, San Diego
- Martha Grover, Ph.D. – Georgia Tech
- Nicholas Hud, Ph.D. – Georgia Tech
- Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy, Ph.D. – Scripps Research Institute
- Antonio Lazcano, Ph.D. – National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico City
- Luke Leman, Ph.D. – Scripps Research Institute
- Thomas Orlando, Ph.D. – Georgia Tech
- Greg Springsteen, Ph.D. – Furman University
- Loren Williams, Ph.D. – Georgia Tech