Thematic issue of Elements magazine guest-edited by Polymer Science professor


Department of Polymer Science professor, Dr. Nita Sahai recently guest-edited a thematic issue of Elements magazine on the topic of the Origins of Life, which was released in December 2016.

The origin of life is essentially a problem of non-enzymatic (prebiotic) synthesis of organic monomers from inorganic starting compounds, their non-enzymatic (prebiotic) polymerization, and macromolecular self-assembly into cell-like entities. In this issue of Elements, fundamental questions such as, “How did life arise from inorganic molecules on early Earth about 4.2-3.8 billion years ago?” “Did the organic syntheses occur in an early Earth primordial soup or was there an extraterrestrial source?” “What geochemically-plausible environmental conditions were present on Earth present for the chemical reactions?” are asked. These scientists believe that “The answers to these questions require chemical, geological and biological considerations. Although the scientific answer to the origin of life has yet to be discovered, the synthesis of the molecular building blocks such as the genetic blueprint for life (e.g., RNA), the workhorses of life (e.g., proteins), and the protective membranes for life (e.g., lipids) are being uncovered. But, making the basic building blocks is only the first step. The next steps involve polymerizing those molecules into viable cell-like entities that can metabolize and reproduce under relevant geochemical environmental conditions. The articles in this issue will introduce you to this exciting interdisciplinary field of research.”

Elements_OoL_Dec 2016_FINAL PUBLISHED-1Elements is a magazine jointly published by 17 international societies of geochemistry, mineralogy and petrology. It is a unique journal with articles written in an-eye-catching manner with lots of great color images, at the undergraduate level, so that it can be understood by many different audiences. The magazine is published every two months. The selection of thematic issue topics by the Editorial Board is the outcome of a competitive process in which experts in the field can apply for thematic issues.

Dr. Sahai has been an Ohio Research Scholar Professor of Polymer Science at The University of Akron since 2011 and has received various distinguished awards and honors. She has edited numerous publications and has had her work presented through various prominent outlets including national public radio and public television. Her research interests are physical-chemical aspects of cellular and biomolecular interactions at mineral surfaces in processes relevant to bone biomineralization and polymerization of organic molecules in the origins and early evolution of life.

To learn more about Elements magazine and this special issue, visit