First NOMIS–ETH Fellow announced
April 17, 2023
Craig Walton has been named the first NOMIS–ETH Fellow at the Centre for Origin and Prevalence of Life at ETH Zurich.
Dr. Walton is a planetary scientist, hailing from Scotland. His scientific interests include early solar system processes, prebiotic chemistry, and the co-evolution of biochemistry with geochemistry. After completing a wide-ranging integrated masters degree at the University of St Andrews, UK, Dr. Walton focussed on the bioessential element phosphorus (P) during his PhD at the University of Cambridge, UK. His project examined phosphorus in meteorites, the origins of life, and Earth’s crust over time. Now, Dr. Walton aims to apply this interdisciplinary scope to the broader (multi-element!) architecture of multiple problems surrounding Earth’s birth and subsequent evolution.
When asked about his research project, Dr. Walton explains: ‘Earth’s 4.5 billion year history is a complex puzzle of geology, chemistry, and biology, yet the picture remains incomplete. We lack rocks from the first 500 million years, leaving us with little evidence to constrain the conditions that prevailed during planet formation or those that gave rise to life. I study meteorites, terrestrial rocks, and biogeochemical systems to bridge this gap in our understanding.’
Dr. Walton’s research will focus on interpreting the meteorite record of asteroid collisions, which should preserve information regarding the timing and nature of Earth’s accretion and the wider evolution of the inner Solar System. Building from this analytical branch of his work, he will use numerical models to estimate the flux of cosmic dust – generated during asteroid collisions – to the surface of early Earth. His work will enable him to understand whether or not cosmic dust particles raining out on the surface of early Earth could have supplied the necessary ingredients to promote prebiotic chemistry and, in turn, the origins of life.
Dr. Walton will conduct his research under the mentorship of Prof. Maria Schönbächler who is leading the Planetary Geochemistry group at the Department of Earth Sciences (D-ERDW). Dr. Walton is grateful for the exciting opportunity made possible by the NOMIS Foundation – ETH Fellowship Program. He is looking forward to joining ETH Zurich’s efforts at the COPL to further reveal the origins of life in September 2023.
Dr. Walton’s full CV is available for download (PDF, 43 KB).
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