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Research scientist Robert Hazen, Mineralogical Society of America Distinguished Lecturer, will speak on “Life’s Rocky Start: Possible Roles of Minerals in the Origin of
Life” 7:30 p.m. today in Van Wickle Hall room 108.

Free and open to the public, the lecture is sponsored by the geology and environmental geosciences department.

“Life arose on Earth as a geochemical process from the interaction of rocks, water, and gases,” states Hazen. “Recent experiments on mineral-mediated, hydrothermal organic synthesis and selective adsorption of organic molecules on mineral surfaces shed light on possible origin scenarios. Rocks and minerals are likely to have played several critical roles, including protective environments for the concentration of organic molecular building blocks, templates and catalysts for the organization of these molecules, and as reactants in prebiotic organic synthesis.”

Hazen is Clarence Robinson Professor of Earth Science at George Mason University and a research scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Geophysical Laboratory. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in geology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in earth science from Harvard. He joined Carnegie Institution’s research effort after studies as NATO Postdoctoral Fellow at Cambridge University in England.

Hazen is author of more than 230 articles and 16 books on science, history, and music. A fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science, he has received the Mineralogical Society of America Award (1982), the American Chemical Society Ipatieff Prize (1986), the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award (1989), the Educational Press Association Award (1992), and the Elizabeth Wood Science Writing Award (1998). His recent research focuses on the role of minerals in the origin of life, including such processes as mineral-catalyzed organic synthesis and the selective adsorption of organic molecules on mineral surfaces.

Hazen’s books have received widespread critical praise. The Music Men, Wealth Inexhaustible, and Keepers of the Flame, all coauthored with his wife, Margaret Hindle Hazen, explore ties between technology and culture. The Breakthrough, The New Alchemists, Why Aren’t Black Holes Black, and The Diamond Makers describe the forefront of scientific research. He has also written widely for popular audiences, including articles in Newsweek, Scientific American, Smithsonian Magazine, and The New York Times Magazine. His writings have been selected for inclusion in several science anthologies, including The Best Science Writing of 2001.

At George Mason University, Hazen has developed courses and companion texts on scientific literacy. His books with coauthor James Trefil include the best-selling Science Matters: Achieving Scientific Literacy and The Sciences: An Integrated Approach, now in its third edition. Trefil and Hazen also served on the team of writers for the National Science Education Standards. He teaches courses on symmetry in art and science, on images of the scientist in popular culture, and on scientific ethics. Hazen serves on the Committee on Public Understanding of Science of American Association for the Advancement of Science, and on advisory boards for NOVA (WGBH Boston), Encyclopedia Americana, and Carnegie Council.

He appears frequently on radio and television programs on science, and he recently recorded The Joy of Science, a 60-lecture video course produced by The Teaching Company. He recently was named Mineralogical Society of America’s Distinguished Lecturer for 2002-2003.

In addition to his scientific activities, Hazen is a professional trumpeter. He has performed with numerous ensembles, including the Metropolitan, New York City, Boston, and Washington Operas, the Royal, Bolshoi, Jeoffrey, and Kirov Ballets, the Boston Symphony, the National Symphony, and the Orchestre de Paris. He is a member of Washington Chamber Symphony, National Gallery Orchestra, and Smithsonian Chamber Orchestra.

For more information, contact Ellen Leslie, geology and environmental geosciences department secretary, at or x5193.

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