What if we could see into the past and know what was happening on an early earth before life was present? Through our experiments we try to offer a window. An early earth would've lacked an ozone layer causing all molecules to be bombarded with damaging UV light. Molecules that absorb that light and dont release it quickly, in femto- or picoseconds, are likely to react. Since the fundamental building blocks of life like the nucleobases in DNA and RNA must be able to preserve their molecualr structure, they must also have fast excited state lifetimes. This offers up a photochemical selection process for the canonical nucleobases. In fact, when we study the excited state lifetime of canonical and alternative nucleobses this photochemical selection process is supported. The canonical nucleobases all have faster excited state lifetimes by an order of magnitude than the alternative nucleobases.
Our research focuses on studying the excited state dynamics of the canonical nucleobases and alternative nucleobases close in structure, clusters of nucleobases and clusters with water.