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Jose Aguilar

Valencia jose ms.jpg

In the beginning was the science fiction. Jules Verne and Herbert George Wells, the fathers of the genre. Then was the science with Carl Sagan, Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins. The nexus was Isaac Asimov with his wonderful stories of cerebral adventures and fantastic scientific essays. They opened my eyes to the immense beauty of science as a method and showed me the scientific attitude to the universe and the rewards that science offers us in the form of understanding and wonder. So I will be forever grateful to them. Currently, if the science is the matter of my thought, the science fiction is the matter of my dreams.

Since then I was captivated with the space. Paraphrasing Darwin, I think there is grandeur in the view that science give us about the emergence and evolution of life by natural selection on a tiny planet like a speck of dust lost in the vastness of the deep space. The knowledge about our cosmic habitat, with the temporal and spatial grandeur of the universe, has entered my understanding of biology. The fact that life arose 4 billion years ago in a rich-water planet in an otherwise unremarkable Solar System in an outlying part of the Galaxy in an unexceptional part of the universe is very instructive.

I think that understanding the phenomena of life from a cosmic perspective was my main motivation to start studying biology at the university. Another important motivation was the challenge to the scientific activity that is the biological complexity. Biology studies the living beings and the different levels of organization that constitute them or that arise on their interactions with each other and with the planet. Almost anything. Systems studied by biology are several orders of magnitude more complex than the simple systems studied by physics so successfully. And last but not least, another motivation was my passion for evolutionary biology (the study of a process that enriches with diversity and beauty the living world) and my affection toward the figure of Darwin encountered in my teenager readings of wonderful Gould’s essays.

For all that, astrobiology, the study of the origins, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe is a discipline that attracts me a lot. In addition, the fact that its success depends critically upon the close coordination of diverse scientific disciplines and programs, including space missions, makes it more very attractive. For a curious mind, research areas that are multidisciplinary in their contents and interdisciplinary in their execution are very encouraging for the possibility of interaction with scientists from different backgrounds.

I am really very interested in the basic questions that addresses astrobiology: how life begin and evolve?, does life exists elsewhere in the universe?, and in connection with my love for science fiction: what is the future of life on Earth and beyond?. I hope to see the day when the extraterrestrial life will has been discovered. How similar o how different those forms of life will be is one of the most enticing questions of our age. But among the goals of astrobiology that most interested me are the first two: the origin of life and his evolution.

Perform experimental and theoretical investigations to understand how life emerges from cosmic and planetary precursors and understand the general physical and chemical principles underlying the origins of life is one of my future goals as a researcher. Also understand how past life on Earth interacted with its changing planetary and Solar System environment. Investigate the Earth’s early biosphere through the integration of molecular, geochemical, and paleontological studies. Study the historical relationship between Earth and its ancient biota, the origins and the development of key biological processes and their environmental consequences during the early history of Earth. The process of biological evolution was very slow at first. It took 2,5 billion years to develop multicellular animals from the earliest cells. Study the foundations of complex life, the causes of the abrupt origin during the Cambrian Explosion of the more complex multicellular biota is a very interesting question that also attracts me.

Space exploration, the exploration and colonization of the world beyond the home, no doubt, is one of the greatest adventures of humankind. But I think that the Great Adventure is our exploration of cosmos through science. An adventure that began 27 centuries ago, on the coasts of the ancient Ionia. I am proud to belong (even as a student) to that from my point of view is the noblest human activity: the search of knowledge about the universe and our awakening on him. In the words of Dawkins, one of the best ways to spend our short lives.