PhD biophysicist at Laboratory of Biophysics and Evolution — Offre pourvue

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Offre pourvue

A statistical approach to the origin of life : emergence of polymerization, autocatalysis and Darwinian evolution

ESPCI Paris – PSL : ESPCI Paris

- PSL is a major institution of higher education (a French "Grande École d’ingénieurs"), an internationally renowned research center (6 Nobel Prizes), and a fertile ground of innovation for industry (3 start-ups created/year). ESPCI is a highly multidisciplinary environment with teaching and research in physics, chemistry and biology.

Project : Is Darwinian evolution a surprising phenomenon ? Life as we know it is governed by Darwinian evolution but it remains unknown how it emergences from inanimate matter. Understanding this is central to understanding the origin of life. In particular, no non-living system capable of Darwinian evolution has been found in nature or made artificially from physical-chemical components.
In this project, we propose a theoretical statistical approach to identify conditions for the emergence of Darwinian evolution. By generating random chemical reaction rules, we will estimate the probability of key processes in the origin of life : polymerization, autocatalysis, and evolution by natural selection. This analysis builds on recent works of the lab which define general conditions for autocatalysis [1,2]. The aim is to define whether the emergence of Darwinian evolution is merely possible, which parameters in chemical reactions matter for this emergence, and estimate whether these conditions are plausible given actual chemical systems found on Earth or exoplanets.

The PhD will be co-supervised by Philippe Nghe (biophysicist at Laboratory of Biophysics and Evolution, ESPCI Paris-PSL) and Jérémie Unterberger (mathematician, Institut Elie Cartan, Université de Lorraine). The PhD is funded by the ERC project AbioEvo.

Relevant publications from the group :
[1] Blokhuis, A., Lacoste, D., & Nghe, P. (2020). Universal motifs and the diversity of autocatalytic systems. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(41), 25230-25236.
[2] Unterberger, J., & Nghe, P. (2021). Stoechiometric and dynamical autocatalysis for diluted chemical reaction networks. arXiv preprint arXiv:2109.01130.

Laboratory : The research will be hosted by the Nghe team in the Laboratory of Biophysics and Evolution ( at ESPCI Paris – PSL University, France ( in the heart of Paris.

Expected profiles :
The candidate is expected to have a strong background in theoretical physics or mathematical physics or computational approaches, and a taste for discussion with experimentalists and interdisciplinarity.

Starting date : March 2023
Duration : 3 years
Salary : 1 700€ net

Application : Send a motivation letter, CV with a publication list, and recommendation letters to Please be sure to read about our approach to doing science and follow advice for applicants :

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