Workshop: Life in the Universe

Meeting: Life in the Universe
October (23) 24 – 28, 2022
Sofia, Bulgaria



Ever since the dawn of human civilization, the problem of defining life and searching for its occurrence has been of great interest. One might even argue that along with the emergence of intelligence and consciousness,  the understanding of life itself is one of the premier scientific issues of our time. Over the past decades, there have been major achievements in astronomy, such as the discovery of exoplanets in amazing abundance; chemistry, such as the development of synthetic networks with overlap to geochemical processes; quantitative biology, such as our ability to increasingly understand in detail the workings of processes underlying living systems and the existence of all manner of extremophiles; and the studies of geochemistry and the fossil record of the early earth. These achievements, if brought together, offer the possibility of yielding major breakthroughs for the aforementioned scientific questions. 

 To facilitate such a fruitful transdisciplinary interaction, we are organizing a research meeting to take place in Sofia, Bulgaria the week of October 24-27, 2022. We plan to invite both leading experts and early career researchers from the relevant research areas and discover opportunities for cross-fertilization between subfields.  Our aim is to create the seeds of major progress in our understanding of life. Fields to be represented at the planned meeting include:

  • Exoplanets: their detection, dynamics, and remote sensing thereof
  • Geophysics, geochemistry and the connections between prebiotic chemistry and the origins of life 
  • Synthetic cells and minimal organisms 
  • Quantitative approaches to biological networks such as those responsible for metabolism in living systems
  • Life in harsh environments; the search for extraterrestrial life in the solar system

In order to undertake this effort, we have assembled an Advisory Board of conference attendees. This group will help arrange the scientific program and direct the discussions toward accomplishing the stated goals. 

Nikolai Denkov, Sofia University “St. Kl. Ohridski”
Milena Georgieva, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences
Anastas Gospodinov, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences
Herbert Levine, Northeastern University
Zan Luthey-Schulten, UIUC
Didier Queloz, Cambridge University

Dimitar Sasselov, Harvard University
Evgeni Semkov, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences
Trifon Trifonov, Max Planck Institute, Germany and Sofia University “St. Kl. Ohridski”
Neal Woodbury, Arizona State University

Kate Adamala, University of Minnesota
Rory Barnes, University of Washington, NASA
Krastan Blagoev, National Science Foundation
Claudia Bonfio, Université de Strasbourg
Lars Buchhave, Danmarks Tekniske Universitet (DTU)
David Catling, University of Washington
Paul Davies, Arizona State University
Nikolai Denkov, Sofia University “St. Kl. Ohridski”
Angel Garcia, National Science Foundation
Anastas Gospodinov, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences
Irep Gözen, University of Oslo
Valentin Ivanov, European Southern Observatory, Chile
Dongya Jia, National Cancer Institute
Petar Kenderov, Institute of Mathematics and Informatics
Rosita Kokotanekova, ESO Chile
Veselin Kostov, NASA
Dimiter Kunnev, University at Buffalo
Herbert Levine, Northeastern University
Tim Lichtenberg, Oxford University
Peter Littlewood, University of Chicago

Zan Luthey-Schulten, UIUC
Mariya Lyubenova, ESO
Stephen Mojzsis, University Colorado & Hungarian Academy of Science
Ron Naaman, Weizmann Institute of Science
Vincent Noireaux, University of Minnesota
Ben Pearce, Johns Hopkins University
Juan Perez-Mercader, Harvard University
Matthew Powner, University College London
Sascha Quanz, ETH Zurich
Didier Queloz, Cambridge University
Lynn Rothschild, NASA
Dimitar Sasselov, Harvard University
Everett Shock, Arizona State University
Eric Smith, Santa Fe Institute, Earth-Life Science Institute, Ronin Institute
John Sutherland, Cambridge University
Nicholas Tosca, University of Cambridge
Trifon Trifonov, Max Planck Institute, Germany and Sofia University “St. Kl. Ohridski”
Sara Walker, Arizona State University
Loren Williams, Georgia Tech
Olga Zakhozhay, MAO-Kyiv, Ukraine/ MPIA, Heidelberg, Germany

Workshop funded by the Bulgarian National Science Fund the National Science Foundation USA