The Search for Life’s Origin and Future Beyond Earth

Jian Gong, University of Wyoming
CS Seminar Graphic

We will embark on an interdisciplinary journey through time and space, seeking clues to life's origins and the tantalizing possibility of its existence beyond Earth. By examining Earth’s geologic record, we unlock secrets from ancient fossils that provide a window into early life forms and their environments. We then explore general properties of life and how they interact with the environment, using these principles as guiding clues from the perspective of remote observers, exploring profound ecosystem-level, landscape, and atmospheric changes over deep time. These observations offer us a blueprint for identifying habitable conditions elsewhere. NASA's cutting-edge missions to Mars and other celestial bodies furnish us with the tools and data to extend this search into the solar system, with each mission sharpening our strategies to detect life. As we cast our gaze outward, we synthesize these terrestrial lessons into a more robust framework, applying novel techniques and fostering interdisciplinary collaborations to enhance our chances of discovering extraterrestrial life, ultimately answering profound questions of where we come from and whether we are alone in the universe.

Jian Gong is a research scientist at University of Wyoming, School of Computing.

He has been trained as a geobiologist, astrobiologist and applied computational scientist interested in understanding the planet Earth as system and how various physical, chemical, and biological processes are interlinked and coevolved together through deep time. Beyond Earth, Jian also investigates environmental evolution of other planets and their moons in the solar system. He has worked on NASA-sponsored projects such as life detection missions, environmental characterization and biosignature preservation, and topics related to the origin and nature of life.

Jian’s research interest is in complex system science, self-organization pattern formation theories, as well as modeling large and complex datasets to investigate causes and effects. He researches answers to fundamental, bold questions such as: what is life, what is consciousness, what is the reality that we live in and how we arrived here. Jian’s main toolkits to resolve these questions are scientific experiments, organized datasets and advanced statistical modeling, deep-learning methods.

See upcoming and previous presentations at CS Seminar Series.