Craig Walton is a NOMIS–ETH Fellow at the Centre for Origin and Prevalence of Life at ETH Zurich (Switzerland). He is conducting his research under the mentorship of Maria Schöenbächler, who is leading the Planetary Geochemistry group in the Department of Earth Sciences.
Walton is a planetary scientist hailing from Scotland. After completing a wide-ranging, integrated master’s degree in earth and environmental sciences at the University of St. Andrews (UK) in 1998, Walton focused on the bioessential element phosphorus (P) during his studies at the University of Cambridge (UK), where he received a PhD in earth sciences in 2022. His research project examined phosphorus in meteorites, the origins of life, and Earth’s crust over time. Most recently, he was a junior research fellow at Trinity College at the University of Cambridge.
Now, Walton aims to apply this interdisciplinary scope to the broader (multi-element!) architecture of multiple problems surrounding Earth’s birth and subsequent evolution. His scientific interests include early solar system processes, prebiotic chemistry and the coevolution of biochemistry with geochemistry. Walton is studying meteorites, terrestrial rocks and biogeochemical systems to bridge the gap in our understanding of Earth’s history, particularly the first 500 million years. Rocks from this time period have all been lost, such that there is little evidence to constrain the conditions that prevailed during planet formation or the conditions that gave rise to life.
Walton’s research as a NOMIS Fellow 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 the analytical branch of his work, he will use numerical models to estimate the flux of cosmic dust, which was generated during asteroid collisions, to the surface of early Earth. His research will provide clues about whether 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.