The Molecular Origins of Life I

  • Type: Vorlesung (V)
  • Chair: KIT-Fakultäten - KIT-Fakultät für Chemie und Biowissenschaften
  • Semester: SS 2021
  • Place:

    online, first lecture 27th of Apr.

  • Time:

    Tue 15:30-17:00, Thu 15:30-17:00

  • Start: 27.04.2021
  • Lecturer: Zbigniew Pianowski
    Prof. Dr. Joachim Podlech
  • SWS: 1 SWS
  • Lv-No.: 5184
  • Information:


    EXAM INFOS - 01.07.2021, 10:00, INF 306, Seminarraum 20, 1 OG.


    The exam for students from University of Heidelberg will take place on Thursday, the 01.07.2021 at 10:00 in the morning. Location: Theoretikum INF 306, Seminar room SR20 The room is reserved for one hour.

    5 questions, 2 points per question = 10 points max.; usual writing time: 20-30 min., but we have a 60 minute time slot for these who wish to write longer. The exam is not difficult and not "tricky". It has to prove your general understanding of the topics discussed during the lecture and contained on the slides.

    Important - due to the current pandemic situation, a strict "Hygienekonzept" applies to all participants. Please, adhere strictly to these rules, to assure safety of every participant. If you have fiever, coughing or any symptoms of the infection, please stay home. These persons will be able to write the exam during a next semester session. Please, do not bring food. If you have to bring water/something to drink, it must be handled safety without endangering health of the others.

    What to bring: pens, Student ID with photo, prepare your Matrikelnummer - you will have to write it down on every page, together with your name

    What will be available onsite/ from me (not to bring): One paper sheet with the exam questions, additional paper sheets for writing answers, if the exam sheet occurs insufficient; we need no calculators, nor any sofisticated devices - the content of your mind is sufficient.

    Exact location of the exam room, as well as detailed description of the COVID-safety rules can be found under "Exam Jul.2021 Info", just below the downloadable slides on this page.

    If you for any reason (COVID-related or unrelated) do not want to participate in the exam at the indicated date, or if you have any further questions, please contact me individually ( to find a satisfactory solution.

    Students from KIT Karlsruhe interested in a written exam, please contact me individually. Otherwise, these with personal presence on at least 4 out of 7 lecture units automatically receive "bestanden" in ILIAS system. If this is not successful for you for any reason, contact me.


    Notes: Tuesdays and Thursdays 15:30-17:00, lecture online

    First lecture: 27. Apr. 2020, 7 lecture units: 27.04., 29.04, 4.05., 6.05., 11.05., 18.05. and 20.05.

    the lecture slides will be available for download shortly before the respective lecture.


    The link for all the lectures in Zoom (accessible without restrictions, also externally):

    or you can type the following parameters in Zoom software:
    Meeting ID: 856 6435 3034
    Passcode: 758194


    Following topics will be discussed:

    Definitions of life – e.g. self-replicating chemical systems that use external energy sources to stay out of the equilibrium;

    The origin of atoms and simple molecules - how the Universe, stars, planets, and molecules building them were formed?

    Minimal requirements for a habitable environment – under which conditions the known forms of life can exist? Hypothetical other chemistries that could form living systems elsewhere;

    The primordial soup – what pool of biologically relevant molecules likely existed on the prebiotic Earth: the Miller-Urey experiment, the formose reaction, prebiotic syntheses of aminoacids, sugars, nucleic acids, nucleotides, and lipids, prebiotic polymerization;

    The origin of life – self-replicating systems, metabolism-first vs. gene-first, the “RNA world”, the origins of homochirality;

    Formation of protocells – enhancing RNA with polypeptides, establishment of the genetic code, DNA as the enhanced information storage, metabolic networks, membranes;

    From molecules to cells – LUCA (Last Universal Common Ancestor), information storage and function – split on different molecules, origins of the genetic code, metabolic networks and lipid membranes;

    The history of life on Earth – timeline for LUCA, beginning of photosynthesis and aerobic metabolism, Eukaryotes, multicellular life, extremophilic organisms, habitable worlds outside Earth – current status of knowledge, space exploration programs;