New Cambridge University research centre will study life in the universe

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Are we alone in the Universe? It's a question that most people have pondered at some time. Now, a new research centre has been opened in Cambridge to try to determine the answer.

The Leverhulme Centre for Life in the Universe, located at the University of Cambridge, will be led by 2019 Nobel Laureate Professor Didier Queloz. Over the next 10 years, it will focus on exploring the nature and extent of life in the universe.

Professor Queloz will lead an international team of scientists and philosophers who will ask what the nature of life is, how it emerged and whether there is alien life elsewhere in the Universe.

The Leverhulme Centre will be supported by a £10m grant awarded by the Leverhulme Trust, a British organisation established in 1925 whose resources should be used to support "scholarships for the purposes of research and education."

Professor Queloz's team will also collaborate with researchers from other institutions, including Harvard University, University College London, the University of Colorado Boulder, ETH Zurich and the Centre of Theological Inquiry in Princeton, New Jersey.

Speaking about the project, Professor Queloz, who is a fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge, said: “The Centre will act as a catalyst for the development of our vision to understanding life in the Universe through a long-term research programme that will be the driving force for international coordination of research and education."

The Leverhulme Centre's research will focus on four themes:

- Identifying the chemical pathways to the origins of life;
- Characterising the environments on Earth and other planets that could act as the cradle of prebiotic chemistry and life;
- Discovering and characterising habitable exoplanets and signatures of geological and biological evolution;
- Refining our understanding of life through philosophical and mathematical concepts.

The University of Cambridge has recently launched the Initiative for Planetary Science and Life in the Universe (IPLU) to enable cross-disciplinary research on planetology and life in the Universe. The Leverhulme Centre will complement and build on IPLU’s activities.

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