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Leverhulme Centre for Life in the Universe

On Friday 15th March, researchers  from across nine university departments gathered at King’s College for the LCLU’s Annual Science Day. Over half the attendees were students, and represented fields ranging from theoretical physics and astronomy to philosophy and divinity, and everything in between.The event celebrated the multidisciplinary research carried out on Life in the Universe themes across the university – featuring keynotes from Dr Karina Nakashima on coarcervate droplets as protocell candidates and Prof Nikku Madhusudhan on life and Hycean planets. 
The day featured four themed sessions exploring fundamental questions about life. The first session launched us headfirst into the search for extraterrestrial life, exploring what constitutes "Earth-like" and leveraging the fossil record and atmospheric analysis to guide our hunt on exoplanets. Next we discussed the environments in which life can thrive, by investigating the 19th century theories of life on other Solar System bodies, considering how life might exist on planets with lethal levels of ozone, the philosophical significance of life in the universe and how we understand convection in the atmospheres of exoplanets.
Drilling down to more rocky concerns, we learned about planet formation through the streaming instability, how we can determine the composition of planets using white dwarfs as spectrometers, the prospects for delivering molecules necessary for life through cometary impacts and understanding the geochemistry of early Solar System asteroids. Finally, we considered how life might evolve from a small spark to entire species, by looking at the role of complex structures on the evolution of life on Earth, prebiotic chemistry from manganese and stellar flares and the origin of animals on Earth through the Neoproterozoic carbon cycle. 
The day featured collaborative breaks where attendees continued discussions initiated by the talks and discussed the work presented in our poster displays. Thanks also to King’s College for providing a very agreeable setting for this throughout the day! Following an impromptu online poll, awards were presented to Princess Buma-at (Department of Zoology) and Laura Rogers (Institute of Astronomy) for the most acclaimed talks, and to Frances Rigby (Institute of Astronomy) for the most popular poster. Beyond learning about ongoing research, the day fostered new collaborations and ideas in the true spirit of the LCLU!