Origin of Life Research has Scientists Asking ‘Could Life Begin in Oil?’

    A Saint Louis University research team is one of five groups of chemists and biologists across the country involved in a project to discover if life could begin in oil. The idea was generated at an ‘ideas lab’ co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and NASA. Paul Bracher, Ph.D., assistant professor in SLU’s Department of Chemistry, and his research team have been awarded a three-year $597,380 grant from the NSF to study what life might look like on other planets – or, here on earth – if it began in oil. While life as we know it on Earth relies on chemistry in aqueous environments where water is a solvent, some celestial bodies are covered with liquid oils. Titan, a moon of Saturn, has lakes of organic hydrocarbons and methane rain.