Welcome from the Director
Two of the most compelling questions humans have endeavored to answer are “Where did we come from?” and “Are we alone?”. Searching for life outside our own planet compels us to distinguish between the types of planetary environments that can host life, and those that cannot. This search not only requires a robust understanding of the limits of modern life, but also plausible models of the evolution of abiotic chemistry that eventually gives rise to life. However, our understanding of how life developed on our own planet is still quite hotly debated. One of the main challenges is reconciling prebiotic pathways that are consistent with life as we know it with the constraints of the early Earth environments that must have hosted these chemistries. Answers to these questions are contained not only in Earth’s ancient history and it’s dynamic early evolution, but also within microbial communities that inhabit the Earth’s most extreme environments, expanding the limits of life and providing windows into life’s beginnings.
The mission of the RARE Center is to advance the field of astrobiology by catalyzing innovative and interdisciplinary research through novel training and educational programs, and by modeling serving as a platform to evolve a multidisciplinary collection of research programs into a truly interdisciplinary and interactive collaborative network. The RARE Center brings together researchers from across RPI, along with national and international colleagues and partners, who are broadly interested in the field of Astrobiology. Spanning research topics that include the origin and composition of organic compounds in space; the emergence of life on Earth; the extent of life in Earth’s extreme ecosystems; and the potential for life elsewhere in the solar systems, the RARE Center research program is a vibrant community on the cutting edge of Astrobiology.
The RARE Center hosts a number of RPI faculty, research staff, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate and undergraduate students working across several ongoing and upcoming research projects. The laboratory facilities within RARE offer a unique opportunity to replicate early Earth environments, and to test the limitations of high pressure microbial growth and survival. We are also expanding the field of Astrobiology through our undergraduate minor in Astrobiology, and are always looking forward to having interested students and scientists join our team! Please contact us for further information.
The RARE Center research projects are part of NASA’s Prebiotic Chemistry and Early Earth Environments (PCE3) Consortium, one of five Research Coordination Networks within the Astrobiology Program. The PCE3 Consortium is focused on investigating the synthesis of small molecules under the conditions of the Early Earth, and the subsequent formation of proto-biological molecules and pathways that lead to systems harboring the potential for life.