Welcome to the Origins and Habitability Laboratory!

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We are astrobiologists who study the origin of life and how life can exist on other worlds. Our group consists of geologists, biologists, chemists, engineers, and others. We work on a variety of projects to understand how geological conditions impact life in planetary environments such as early Earth, Mars, icy moons of the outer planets, and exoplanets.

Contact us to learn more about student, postdoc, collaboration, and visitor opportunities!

OHL Code of Conduct

Recent Lab News

Origin of the electron transport chain

Laurie Barge and Jessica Weber, along with members of the JPL led “Becoming Biotic” Ideas Lab for the Origins of Life team, authored a new paper in PNAS about the origins of the electron transport chain, a necessary system in biology that may have been present at the origin of life. (Figure from Goldman et al. 2023, PNAS)

Pigments as a Biosignature

A new study was published in Astrobiology by Jessica Weber, Laurie Barge, and OHL alum Laura Rodriguez, about prebiotic formation of colorful pigments. We review the biochemistry of pigments, their abiotic & prebiotic synthesis, and implications for using pigments as a biosignature.

New Student Outreach Program with Cal State LA

The OHL has a new NASA funded outreach program with Prof. Arezoo Khodayari at Cal State LA, “Diversifying Student Pipelines in STEM: Environmental Pollution Reduction Inspired by Planetary Science”. We are connecting research in wastewater treatment with astrobiology to provide research experiences for Cal State LA students, to enhance the confidence and motivation of students to pursue future careers in STEM fields. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

New Origin of Life Grant Funded

OHL PI Laurie Barge was recently awarded a new NASA Exobiology grant to study prebiotic chemistry in ancient hydrothermal chimneys. We will be studying carbon and mineral reactions in a hydrothermal reactor simulating vents on early Earth and ocean worlds. (Image credit: Tully Mahr & Bonnie Teece)

OHL Outreach Committee

Introducing the OHL’s Outreach Committee! The outreach committee was founded by and is led by students and postdocs. They organize outreach activities for the lab to participate in, manage the lab’s social media, and represent the OHL at outreach events.

Pathways in STEM outreach

Laurie Barge, Bonnie Teece, Jessica Weber, and Matt Luna participated in the NSF-funded Pathways in STEM geo/bio module at the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island, teaching a module about science communication to cohorts of community college students.