Name: Aditya Chopra (Adi) 

Position: PhD Student

Personal Website: http://www.adi.life

Area of study: Astrobiology, Planetary Science, Origin of Life

Project: Palaeoecophylostoichiometrics

What does that mean?

‘Palaeo-eco-phylo-stoichio-metrics’  – Talk about a long PhD!

I study the elemental composition (stoichiometry) of the oldest (paleo) life forms across the tree of life (phylogenetic tree) and their environments (ecology). By comparing the elemental abundances in microorganisms and their environments, we are trying to understand when and where life originated, how it evolved on Earth and is there life elsewhere in the universe.

How did I get here?

It all started about 13.7 billion years ago… Soon after the Big Bang, as the universe cooled, the first stars and galaxies formed. Cut the long story short – about 4.567 billion years ago, our Sun was formed and the left over debris from that process created a tiny little rock that grew a bigger over the next few million years. It became blueish when couple of other wet rocks hit it and resembled what some animals like to call ‘Planet Earth’.

Soon after the rocks stopped falling out of the sky, the earliest life forms appeared. Fast forward 4 billion years, and in the early hours one morning, the clouds parted and the ‘miracle’ occurred and I was born.

Spending many hours of my childhood in a lab (and no, I wasn’t not the test subject) I always knew I wanted to be a scientist. I pretty much scammed my way through school for most subjects but science subjects were different. I enjoyed them and only them.

Then one fine day, on a poster (in the maths department’s toilet, if you need to know) I came across an advert for the ANU Summer Scholarship. It read “Exceptional 2nd year students may apply for a 3 month research scholarship at the Australian”. The word ‘exceptional’ meant I wasn’t eligible but I applied anyway and to my surprise, I got a Post-It note from a guy named Charley Lineweaver saying “Look forward to meeting you”.

Well the rest is history… Come talk to me one day I’ll tell you how my project came to be. I can be reached most easily at aditya@mso.anu.edu.au or (+61) 2 612 50823.

Where will I go?

The same place you will go – into the space-time foam of the universe.

If and when I finish my PhD, I hope to continue in science and contribute in some way  to the sum of human knowledge. Post-doctoral research and academia somewhere on this planet are probably on the cards.

In the not so distant future, I shall stop increasing the entropy of the universe and then over a trillion trillion trillion years, as the universe reaches a state of heat-death, all of us will be spread homogenously and we will be indistinguishable from the space-time foam of the universe.