University Leiden University (LU)
Institute and/or group Leiden Institute of Chemistry (LIC)
Advisors Prof. dr. Roxanne Kieltyka (LU), Prof. dr. Alexander Kros (LU)
oLife Research Areas II. Defining properties and synthesis of Life, from the molecular to the biosphere level
I. Planetary preconditions and boundary conditions of Life, and its origins here on Earth
Start date September 1, 2020

Profile of the fellow

Sandeepa K. Vittala was born in Udupi (India). He received his B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Chemistry from the Mangalore University. During Master studies he got opportunity to work as summer research fellow with Dr. Jayanta Haldar, and as project assistant under Dr. T. Govindaraju at Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), Bangalore. In this period, he has been introduced into many exciting research areas such as nanomaterials, photophysics, peptides and various self-assembly aspects.

Subsequently he moved to CSIR-National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology (CSIR-NIIST), Trivandrum to pursue his PhD under the supervision of Dr. Joshy Joseph. During the doctoral research he acquired skills in the synthesis of various functional chromophores and oligonucleotides, characterization and photophysical studies using steady-state and time-resolved techniques. Soon after obtaining PhD in Chemistry (2018), he continued his research there on same subject as Research Associate. In 2019, he joined Prof. Han Da group at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China as Postdoctoral research fellow to work on DNA-templated nanoarchitectures and nanodevices. In September 2020 he joined Prof. Roxanne E. Kieltyka group at Leiden University as oLife postdoctoral research fellow. As part of oLife program his main interest is to understand the role of supported carbon nanodots or polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’s) in the origin of life.

Role of Supported Carbon dots in the Origin of proto-RNA Polymers

Polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’s) are most common and abundantly occurred polyaromatic molecules in the early universe played a major role in the origin of life by mediating the synthesis of RNA molecules, leading into the RNA world. However, the precise nature of the PAH in the beginning of life remain unknown, were they molecules, such as fullerenes, or could have they been clusters of carbon that formed under these tough conditions? And what may be the consequence of their presentation on the synthesis of proto-RNA precursors (nucleoside analogues) and their self-assembly into proto-RNA polymers?

In order to understand these aspects, the present project work describes the synthesis and characterization of C-dots/chiral C-dots systems and evaluation of their self-assembly properties with supporting templates. Similar to PAHs, the early forms of C-dots might have originated at hydrothermal vents and were subsequently shot up along with the hydrothermal fluids into cooler regions where the presence of supporting template facilitated the formation of self-assembled nanostructure in the presence of C-dots that might assisted the photo-driven reactions related to origin of life. In this context, we will explore the various photophysical and self-assembly studies of C-dots with supporting templates via noncovalent interactions. Two types of supporting templates which is known to present in the primordial earth will be utilized in the present study. One is minerals made up of silicate, alumina, clay etc and another is viscous medium such as bilayer forming phospholipids etc. Detailed photophysical and morphological studies of such supported C-dots systems and prerequisite properties of origin of life from PAH’s such as origin of supramolecular polymers will be investigated.

Dr. Sandeepa Kulala Vittala