Lynn Rothschild on beyond Star Trek: Synthetic biology and NASA’s missions

Colston Research Society annual lecture 2016

Wednesday 7 September 2016 at 6.30 pm
Great Hall, Wils Memorial Building, Queen's Road, BS8 1RJ

Free to attend, but booking is required via the online form.

If you require additional support at any of these events, e.g. wheelchair access or sign language interpretation, please contact Public and Ceremonial Events at the earliest opportunity and we will endeavour to meet your requirements.


Where do we come from? Where are we going? And are we alone? Synthetic biology can help us answer these questions; from providing new ways to explore the origins of life, to the engineering of biodegradable drones and self-folding origami to support space exploration.  

This year's Colston Research Society annual public speaker Professor Lynn Rothschild is passionate about the evolution of life on Earth or elsewhere, while at the same time pioneering the use of synthetic biology to enable space exploration.  Just as travel abroad permits new insights into home, so too the search for life elsewhere allows a more mature scientific, philosophical and ethical perception of life on Earth. She wears these hats as a senior scientist NASA’s Ames Research Center as well as and Adjunct Professor at Brown University, and the University of California Santa Cruz. 

Her research has focused on how life, particularly microbes, has evolved in the context of the physical environment, both here and potentially elsewhere.She founded and ran the first three Astrobiology Science Conferences (AbSciCon), was the founding co-editor of the International Journal of Astrobiology, and is the former director of the Astrobiology Strategic Analysis and Support Office for NASA. 

Astrobiology research includes examining a protein-based scenario for the origin of life, hunting for the most radiation resistant organisms, and determining signatures for life on extrasolar planets. More recently Rothschild has brought her creativity to the burgeoning field of synthetic biology, articulating a vision for the future of synthetic biology as an enabling technology for NASA’s missions, including human space exploration and astrobiology. Since 2011 she has been the faculty advisor of the award-winning Stanford-Brown iGEM team, which has pioneered the use of synthetic biology to accomplish NASA’s mission, particularly focusing on the human settlement of Mars, astrobiology and such innovative technologies as BioWires and making a biodegradable UAV (drone). Her lab will be begin to move these plans into space in the form of the PowerCell synthetic biology secondary payload on a DLR satellite, EuCROPIS, scheduled to launch in July 2017.

She is a fellow of the Linnean Society of London, The California Academy of Sciences and the Explorer’s Club. In 2015 she was awarded the Isaac Asimov Award from the American Humanist Association, and was the recipient of the Horace Mann Award from Brown University.

Further information on the Colston Research Society is available.