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In the question to understand the biology of life, we are (so far) limited to what happened here on Earth. That includes the diversity of biological organisms today, but also its entire past history. Using modern genomic techniques, we can extrapolate backward to reconstruct the genomes of primitive organisms, both to learn about life’s early stages and to guide our ideas about life elsewhere. I talk with astrobiologist Betül Kaçar about paleogenomics and our prospects for finding (or creating!) life in the universe.
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Betül Kaçar received her PhD in biomolecular chemistry from Emory University. She is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is also principal investigator of Project MUSE, a NASA-funded astrobiology research initiative and an associate professor (adjunct) at Earth-Life Science Institute of Tokyo Institute of Technology. Among her awards are a NASA Early Career Faculty Fellow in 2019, and a Scialog Fellow for the search for life in the universe.