The Bulletin is the student newsletter of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Printed eight times during the academic year, and updated continually online, the Bulletin profiles PhD and master's students and reports on GSAS news and events.

Origins of Life Consortium looks to Earth and other planets

The Origins of Life Consortium fosters an interdisciplinary approach across disciplines to answer questions related to the origin of life on Earth and the presence of life on other planets. As part of the Consortium’s activities, Zoe Todd, PhD student in astronomy, and Travis Walton, PhD student in biological and biomedical sciences, along with several other Consortium members and Origins faculty, traveled to Norway on the Consortium’s annual field trip, to observe billions of years of the historical record preserved in the rock. The trip covered both basic introductions to the major rock types as well as outcrops with more complex stories. Overall, they gained perspective on the scale and scope of geological events that may have played a role during the origin of life and throughout Earth’s history.

Origins of Life Consortium students studying rocks
Students collecting samples to analyze back at Harvard.

In addition, the trip provided ample time to talk with graduate students outside their fields. “Being an astronomer and a biochemist, neither one of us held much prior experience in geology,” says Todd. “Fortunately, the geology students and senior faculty were there to supply context for the rock samples we collected.” Back at Harvard, Todd and Walton are continuing to analyze their samples in the laboratory to understand their composition and age. “This trip has been a unique opportunity to become immersed in a completely different field and to broaden our knowledge,” shares Walton.

For further information about getting involved in the Origins of Life Consortium please contact Kelly Colbourn-Moreno, coordinator of academic programs, outreach and events, at kelly.moreno@cfa.harvard or by visiting

Investigate How Planetary Life Begins