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An approach to identifying molecular aliens and making life in the laboratory – Professor Lee Cronin

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

4:00 pm

Online event

An approach to identifying molecular aliens and making life in the laboratory – Professor Lee Cronin

It's always a pleasure to hear from Lee Cronin. Don't miss our next exciting guest speaker event!

“The search for evidence of life elsewhere in the universe has relied upon data collected from probes in our solar system, or astronomical observations. Equally, the quest to make life in the lab is confused by the eternal argument centring around a working definition for life. Knowing what signatures can be assigned to living systems is difficult as alien life has never been seen before. A solution would be to identify a feature that could be used for the search for alien life, and also making life in the lab. We postulate living systems can be distinguished from non-living systems as they produce complex molecules in abundance which cannot from randomly in the absence of biology or technology [1]. In my talk I will present an approach to universal life detection based upon a new theory of molecular complexity called molecular assembly. I will show results attempting to validate this theory on a set of diverse samples from around the world and outer space. I will also show how we are trying to synthesise life forms in the lab using a new programmable chemical robotic system called The Chemputer [2].”

Leroy (Lee) Cronin FRSE is the Regius Professor of Chemistry in Glasgow. Since the age of nine Lee has wanted to explore chemistry using electronics to control matter, understand the origin of life, and generally confuse people with ideas that may or may not make sense one day. He strives to use his imagination to create new ideas that might tell us something about the universe, after all, the imagination is housed in a chemical brain and thus does exist. His research has four main aims:

the construction of an artificial life form / work out how inorganic chemistry transitioned to biology / searching for new life forms the digitisation of chemistry the use of artificial intelligence in chemistry including the construction of ‘wet’ chemical computers the exploration of complexity and information in chemistry.

He runs a team of around 60 people funded by grants from the UK EPSRC, US DARPA, Templeton, Google, BAe, JM. Finally, Lee likes to run a transparent and progressive group. Lee does not like hierarchy but likes organisation and well-defined actions. He likes to mentor researchers using a problem-based approach to solving big ideas. Nothing is impossible until it is tried. To find out more visit

[1] S. M. Marshall, D. G. Moore, A. R. G. Murray, S. I. Walker, L. Cronin, ‘Quantifying the Pathways to Life using Assembly Spaves’, Arxiv, 2019,
[2] S. Steiner, J. Wolf, S. Glatzel, A. Andreou, J. Granda, G. Keenan, T. Hinkley, G. Aragon-Camarasa, P. J. Kitson, D. Angelone, L. Cronin ‘Organic synthesis in a modular robotic system driven by a chemical programming langauge’, Science, 2019, 363,144-152.

Non-drinking event.

This event is accessible to all.

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