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Posted on 17 February 2022 by Robert Mayer

Participants of #LINO22 – Fundamental Questions

Amino acids played a fundamental role on early earth. Photo/Credit: Christoph Burgstedt/iStockphoto.

Robert Mayer, member of Moran Research Group at the University of Strasbourg, was selected to participate in #LINO70, which took place online in 2021. He is looking forward to travelling to Lindau this summer and taking part in the 71st Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. But for now, he reviews the past year since his first blog post.

I’m working in the field of prebiotic chemistry, which is divided into different schools of thought which fundamentally differ in the question which biomolecules and pathways emerged when and where. My current lab, among a few others, follows a rather new concept within the community.

Analogies of Metabolism on Early Earth and Now

We investigate the idea that metabolisms, which today are catalysed by highly complex enzymes, had very similar analogies on early earth which relied on far simpler species like metal ions. While this idea existed for a few decades, only very recently the first more complex examples illustrating this hypothesis were found and we constantly find more examples! Moreover, the availability of new analytical techniques allows researchers to analyse more complex systems than ever before.

New Culture and Language

Robert Mayer
Robert Mayer started as postdoc in Strasbourg in spring 2021. Photo/Credit: Courtesy of Robert Mayer

Starting my postdoc project in a scientific field I was not familiar with was challenging but also very rewarding as I got to learn something new every single day. Within the last year I fully integrated at my new home in France, learnt a new language and culture. I initially worked on a research project in which I studied how metal ions could have catalysed the synthesis of amino acids on early earth. Having written a research proposal for this project before I joined the lab, I was very relieved to see that my ideas to realise the project worked out quite well.

At the end of last year, we were able to publish the first part of this project. I am very happy that the research community seemed to quite like the project as it even got featured by a chemistry news magazine. Since then, I have started more independent research projects within my lab where I try to apply my skills to solve the “bigger” problems that showed up since I started.

Scientific Collaboration for Fresh Ideas

During #LINO70 I enjoyed the personal exchange with the Nobel Laureates. An important message I took with me: The attention to detail and persistence in following your goals pays off in the long term. Also, the digital encounters with the other participants turned out to be very enriching. I am still in contact with some young scientists and very curious to meet them in person to hear how their careers and projects have developed. I think that scientific collaboration with researchers of different backgrounds drives our field as it stimulates fresh ideas.

Robert Mayer

Chemical reactions are Robert Mayer's focus who is member of The Moran Research Group in Strasbourg after finishing his PhD in Munich. He participated in the 70th LNLM as a young scientist and will hopefully come to Lindau this summer