Eloi Camprubi-Casas, Ph.D.


Contact Information

Assitant Professor
Office: ESCNE 4.612
Phone: (956) 665-2950
Email: eloi.camprubicasas@utrgv.edu  
Website: https://eloicamprubi.com/ 


Currently Teaching

  • CHEM 4201 - Chemistry Problems I
  • MATH 8398 - Interdisciplinary Research
  • BIOL 4398 - Special Topics I: Astrobiology

Education

  • PhD, Prebiotic Chemistry, 2018
  • MS, Biosciences (Structural and Molecular Biology), 2014
  • BS, Biochemistry, 2012
  • BS, Biology, 2010

Areas of Expertise

  • Origin of life
  • Astrobiology
  • Evolution
  • Analytical and organic chemistry
  • Heterogeneous catalysis

Research

Hear Dr. Camprubi talk about his research on the Origin of Life on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssy_lF120Pw 

My work focuses on probing the transition between geochemistry and biochemistry, on understanding the laws of living systems, on chemical biosignatures for space exploration, and on studying biological traits emerging in autocatalytic (self-producing) chemical systems.

Prebiotic Chemistry: I am interested in understanding under which conditions certain abiotic chemistry transitions into a living system. I have focused on the non-enzymatic synthesis of sugars (necessary for the synthesis of nucleotides), on studying the synthesis and properties of P-bearing organics, and on the interactions (positive and negative) between these pathways. Moving away from synthesis, I am fascinated by prebiotic coupling systems which allow for non-spontaneous processes to occur by linking them to spontaneous ones. These systems are crucial to modern (and ancient) life, and we have all the reasons to think they had an important role in its emergence.

Hydrothermal Systems: Hydrothermal systems are very prevalent on Earth and other silicate-rich planetary bodies. Rock-water interactions generate a reactivity landscape replete with simple inorganics and ample free energy. We use high-pressure microfluidics reactors which let us simulate these out-of-equilibrium settings with precision in the lab. We often use minerals as catalysts drawing inspiration from the plethora of metallic cofactors prevalent in biology. We can either prepare thin mineral sheets under controlled conditions before an experiment or allow for their spontaneous precipitation during its course.

Biosignatures and Space Exploration: Being able to study extraterrestrial life would be immeasurably useful for us to understand life beyond the contingencies of life on Earth. Deciding which celestial bodies should be prioritized for this endeavor is always contentious. I want to know which extraterrestrial chemicals are indicative of an alien biosphere (i.e. are biosignatures). I am interested in profiling the geochemistry of planetary bodies beyond Earth, particularly that of Ocean Worlds where hydrothermal systems are widespread. We are now building the Boreas Simulator – named after the Greek god of winter – to study how hydrothermally-synthesized organics at Enceladus become altered by the low-pressure, low-temperature, and high-irradiation conditions in its icy surface.

Origins of Darwinian Evolution: Information polymers (RNA, DNA) serve as information repositories in modern and ancient cells. It is possible this was not the case during the early steps in the transition from geo- to biochemistry. Composomes are molecular assemblies whose composition is information. Vesicles are made of amphiphilic molecules and could have operated as composomes, with their constituent parts governing their stability and fitness (capability to replicate). Whether vesicles display significant enough levels of heredity between subsequent reproductive cycles will determine whether such composomes are capable of evolution. It’s likely the key lies in understanding the interaction between the biophysics of vesicle replication and the dynamics of autocatalytic networks producing vesicle monomers.


Recent Publications

*Indicates a supervised student as co-author

(2023) Kopacz, N.*, Corazzi, M. A., Poggiali, G., von Essen, A., Kofman, V., Fornaro, T., van Ingen, H., Camprubi, E., King H. E., Brucato, J. R., ten Kate, I. L. The photochemical evolution of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and nontronite clay on early Earth and Mars. Icarus, 394:115437

(2022) Camprubi, E., Muchowska, K. B., ten Kate, I. L., Markovitch, O., Otto, S. Prebiotic Chemistry: From dust to molecules and beyond. Chapter 2 in New Frontiers in Astrobiology, Elsevier Cambridge, 19-47

(2022) Camprubi, E., Harrison, S. A., Jordan, S. F., Bonnel, J.*, Pinna, S., Lane, N. Do soluble phosphates direct the formose reaction towards pentose sugars? Astrobiology, 22(3):981-991

(2022) Giese, C.C.*, ten Kate, I.L., van den Ende, M.P.A., Wolthers, M., Aponte, J., Camprubi, E., Dworkin, J., Elsila, J.E., Hangx, S., King, H.E., Mclain, H.L., Plümper, P., Tielens, A.G.G.M. Experimental and theoretical constraints on amino acid formation from PAHs in asteroidal settings. ACS Earth and Space Chemistry, 6(3):468-481

(2021) Živković, A., Somers, M.*, Camprubi, E., King, H. E., Wolthers, M., de Leeuw, N. H. Changes in CO2 adsorption affinity related to Ni doping in FeS surfaces: A DFT-D3 study. Catalysts, 11(486)

(2020) Preiner, M., Asche, S., Becker, S., Betts, H., Boniface, A., Camprubi, E., Chandru, K., Erastova, V., Garg, S., Khawaja, N., Kostyrka, G., Machne, R., Moggioli, G., Muchowska, K. B., Neukirchen, S., Peter, B., Pichlhöfer, E., Radványi, A., Ring, C., Rossetto, D., Salditt, A., Schmelling, N. M., Sousa, F., Tria, F., Vörös, D., Xavier, J. C. The future of origin of life research: bridging decades-old divisions. Life, 10:3

(2020) Taubner, R. S., Olsson-Francis, K., Vance, S., Antunes, A., Barge, L., Bollengier, O., Brown, M. J., Camprubi, E., de Vera, J. P., Goodman, J., Hand, K., Jebbar, M., Journaux, B., Karatekin, Ö., Klenner, F., Noack, L., Postberg, F., Rabbow, E., Ramkinsson, N., Rettberg, P., Rückriemen-Bez, T., Sekine, Y., Shibuya, T., Soderlund, K. Experimental and simulation efforts in the astrobiological exploration of exooceans. Space Science Reviews, 216:9

(2019) Camprubi, E., de Leeuw, J. W., House, C. H., Raulin, F., Russell, M. J., Spang, A., Tirumalai, M. R., Westall, F. The emergence of life. Space Science Reviews, 215:56 (also appearing as a chapter in Ocean Worlds: Habitability in the Outer Solar System and Beyond, Springer, 2021)

(2019) Choblet, G., Cadek, O., Freissinet, C., Jones, G., Le Gall, A., MacKenzie, S., Neveu, M., Olsson-Francis, K., Saur, J., Schmidt, J., Sekine, Y., Tobie, G., Vance, S., Barge, L., Behounkova, M., Buch, A., Camprubi, E., Hedman, M., Lainey, V., Lucchetti, A., Mitri, G., Nimmo, F., Panning, M., Postberg, F., Shibuya, T., Sotin, C., Soucek, O., Szopa, C., Tomohiro, U., Van Hoolst, T. Enceladus as a potential oasis for life: Science goals and investigations for future explorations (a white paper submitted in response to ESA’s Voyage 2050 call). Published also in Experimental Astronomy, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10686-021-09808-7

(2018) Camprubi, E., Whicher, A., Pinna, S.*, Herschy, B., Lane, N. Acetyl phosphate as a primordial energy currency at the origin of life. Origin of life and evolution of biospheres, 48(2):159-179

(2017) Camprubi, E., Jordan, S., Vasiliadou, R., Lane, N. Iron catalysis at the origin of life. IUBMB Life, 69(6), 373-381

(2016) Sojo, V., Herschy, B., Whicher, A., Camprubi, E., Lane, N. The origin of life in alkaline hydrothermal vents. Astrobiology, 16(2), 181-197

(2014) Herschy, B., Whicher, A., Camprubi, E., Watson, C., Dartnell, L., Ward, J., Evans, J. R. G., Lane, N. An Origin-of-Life reactor to simulate alkaline hydrothermal vents. Journal of Molecular Evolution, 79, 213-227