Lecture: 15 July “Did Comets Jump-Start Life on Earth” by Matthew Kroonblawd, PhD, LLNL

15 July 2020, Wednesday, Live-streamed via Zoom, YouTube and Facebook

“Did Comets Jump-Start Life on Earth”


Matthew Kroonblawd PhD, Lawrence Livermore National Lab

Recent observations confirms the presence of the protein-forming acid glycine in comets lends support to cometary impact as a possible source for delivering simple amino acids to early Earth. Little is known regarding the survivability or reactivity of glycine during impacts, especially considering that condensed phase chemistry at extreme conditions can lead to the formation of new products through unusual synthetic routes. Quantum-based molecular dynamics (QMD) simulations are a useful atomistic modeling tool to predict chemistry that is difficult and expensive to isolate through laboratory experiments. With QMD, we explore how glycine reacts under the extreme temperatures, pressures, and shear states reached in shock impacts and other geological processes on early Earth and other planets and moons.

Conditions typical of cometary impacts are found to prompt the rapid transformation of glycine into more complicated aromatic molecules. Shearing forces under more moderate compressive loads are predicted to drive formation of polypeptides and large oligomers. These studies provide a “bottom-up” methodology and prospectus for predicting prebiotic chemistry under extreme conditions to help uncover alternative pathways for the origin of life.

Brief BioMatthew (Matt) Kroonblawd is a staff scientist in the Reaction Dynamics Group at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where he first started as a postdoc under Nir Goldman. He holds a BA in Physics from the University of Minnesota-Morris (2012) and a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Missouri-Columbia (2016), where he studied with Tom Sewell.
His work is focused on developing computer simulation and modeling approaches to understand how chemically reactive materials behave under dynamic and extreme conditions.
He has over 20 publications on topics ranging from prebiotic chemistry to explosives and polymers.

How to Attend

To attend the virtual meeting “live” with the opportunity to ask questions:

Connect by 7:30pm on Wednesday, July 15th by clicking this Zoom meeting link: https://zoom.us/j/94472611678?pwd=QVV1MWtwQW9FUTBRSHF4Qk9WZHNYdz09

Clicking the link may prompt you to install the Zoom virtual meeting app. Once installed, you will be able to join the meeting.  If the app is already installed on your device, simply enter the meeting number 94472611678 and password 661744 to join the meeting.

Once joined, you can test your audio and video, and greet other members.

Board members will join the meeting early to help troubleshoot any problems with audio or video. 

Club and welcome announcements will begin at 7:45pm and the lecture will start promptly at 8:00pm.

Alternatively, please visit the following channels to attend the live stream:

SFAA YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChuBJGp_iJYZ11q_ayA-q3A

SFAA Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/152754481404310

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