Research on our team, led by Sara Walker, is motivated to uncover the fundamental principles explaining life, including its origins. That is, we seek to answer the question "What is Life?" by identifying whether there are laws of life. Our idea is that if there are universal laws that describe living systems on Earth and elsewhere, these should ultimately have something to do with information and how it structures physical reality.
We look at life across all scales of biological organization from cells to civilizations, on Earth and beyond to answer:
What is life? We study collective behavior in a variety of living systems, from gene regulatory networks to ant colonies, to determine how information structures matter in living systems.
How does life emerge in the universe? We are developing new theory for how life can emerge from non-living matter based on the idea that information plays a critical role in the transformation of matter to life.
Are we alone? We are working on new ways of thinking about the search for life on other worlds, building quantitative criteria for identifying life.