Lena Vincent

Lena Vincent
330 North Orchard Street, Room 3135F-1
Madison WI 53715
Preferred pronouns: she/her/hers
Joined WID: 2017
lvincent3@wisc.edu


The chemical origins of life and the potential for life on other worlds

Education

  • B.S., Molecular Cell Biology & Physiology, California State University-Long Beach
  • Certificate, Biotechnology, California State University-Long Beach
  • M.S., Biology, California State University-Northridge
  • Ph.D., Astrobiology & Prebiotic Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, x2022

Research Description

How did life get started from non-living ingredients on the early Earth? Does life exist on other worlds and if so, how will we know when we find it? These are the big questions motivating my research on the chemical origins of life. I am using laboratory experiments to study how simple chemicals can give rise to complex, life-like behaviors, to map out the conditions under which they emerge, and ask how they might be applied in the search for life beyond Earth. To do this, I am using a novel approach our research group has developed called chemical ecosystem selection to look for evidence of characteristic features of life; the ability to self-propagate and to evolve adaptively (an accessible summary about how chemical ecosystem selection works can be found here: https://badgerherald.com/news/2019/12/10/uw-lab-pioneers-new-approach-to-study-origin-of-life/). By studying conditions that mimic different planetary environments, this approach may help us understand how life got started here on Earth and how common it might be in the rest of the universe.

Honors

Future Investigators in NASA Earth and Space Science and Technology (FINESST) award