The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) has selected eighteen new members, one of which is from the Faculty of Science and Engineering (FSE) of the University of Groningen. It concerns Prof. Sijbren Otto, Professor of systems chemistry at the Stratingh Institute for Chemistry. The KNAW has approximately 550 members. They are chosen based on scientific achievements of researchers. The new Academy members will be installed later this year.
Prof. Sijbren Otto is a pioneer in systems chemistry, a new discipline in chemistry that studies networks of interacting molecules and their properties. Otto is using this approach to study the chemical basis of life. He succeeded in building systems with ‘dead’ molecules made in the lab that can make copies of themselves, with the aim to undergo Darwinian evolution. Mutations occur during replication, subsequently followed by selection depending on the chemical environment. This gives certain mutants the ability to replicate faster and win the race for resources available. Otto and his group also show how self-replicating molecules can use chemical energy to produce and maintain more complex structures: a first step towards metabolism.
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