Betül Kaçar receives Stanley Miller Early Career Award from ISSOL

Betül Kaçar, assistant professor of bacteriology, is pictured in her research lab in the Microbial Sciences Building at the UW–Madison on Oct. 21, 2021. Photo by Jeff Miller / UW–Madison.

Betül Kaçar, assistant professor in the Department of Bacteriology, was recently selected to receive a Stanley Miller Early Career Award from the International Society of the Study of the Origin of Life (ISSOL).

This award recognizes promising young scientists for outstanding contributions to origins of life research, particularly those engaged in experimental and/or theoretical studies in astrobiology.

Kaçar’s research program explores the origins of life, the biology of early Earth and how understanding life’s emergence and early mechanisms may assist finding life beyond Earth. In addition to her research group, she directs a new NASA-funded multimillion-dollar astrobiology research consortium (MUSE: Metal Utilization and Selection Across Eons) focusing on the evolution of element use in biology across geologic time.

Kaçar’s award notification describes her accomplishments:

[Her] work is outstanding in pushing the boundaries of our understanding of what could have been ancient enzymes and metabolic pathways, developing innovative techniques for exploring the early evolution of biochemistry. Betül leads one of the few laboratories in the world whose research integrates all of the tools of phylogenetic reconstruction – such as genome engineering, protein biochemistry, and paleobiology – to shed light on the origins and early evolution of life on our planet. She independently developed a diversity of new experimental systems in which organisms have been engineered with ancestral genes so that each offers a new way to study the evolution of several key processes, such as translation or carbon and nitrogen fixation.

ISSOL, established in 1973, serves as a professional science society supporting origin of life research and related fields. The society is dedicated to the furtherance of astrobiology and origin of life research through the individual efforts of its members and in cooperation with other national and international scientific organizations.

Stanley Miller, known as the “father of prebiotic chemistry,” is famous for his 1950s demonstration of the prebiotic synthesis of organic compounds, such as amino acids, under simulated primitive Earth conditions in the context of the origin of life.