Heidelberg Initiative for the Origins of Life – HIFOL
The Heidelberg Initiative for the Origins of Life (HIFOL) seeks to understand one of the most fundamental questions of humanity: how did life emerge on Earth and does life exist elsewhere in the Universe. HIFOL facilitates a wide range of interdisciplinary theoretical, experimental, and observational research covering the fields of astronomy, physics, geosciences, chemistry, biology and life sciences from a range of research institutes based in Heidelberg. HIFOL brings together researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics, the University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg Institute of Theoretical Studies, and Kirchhoff Institute for Physics, each tackling different aspects of the same problem.
Astrophysicists aim to understand how planets form around stars and search for habitable Earth analogues, characterizing their atmospheres, using both space- and ground-based telescopes. Using both meteoritic and earth samples, geoscientists strive to unravel the past evolutionary history of the solar system and earth itself, including its interior, crust and hydrosphere. Chemists focus on studying the conditions at which amino acids, nucleotides and their first chains could be abiogenically synthesized and started the self-catalytic replication cycle, while biologists seek to figure out how transition from a non-living to a living world has occurred and where on early Earth it has happened, and how first cells, their membranes, metabolic and reproduction systems have emerged.