Punam Dalai

University of Akron, Goodyear Polymer Bldg, Rm. 632

B.Sc.-B.Ed., Regional Institute of Education, Ajmer, Rajasthan, 2004 M.Sc., Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee, 2006 Scientific Staff, University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany, 2007 Ph.D., University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany, 2013 Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany, 2014 Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Akron, 2014-Present

Research Interests: 

Dr. Punam Dalai’s research focuses on the prebiotic chemical evolution relevant to the origins and early evolution of life studies. During her PhD, she has worked on thermal behavior of amino acids in the presence of various inorganic matrices that may have protected organics from gedradation on the early Earth. Afterwards, she joined the University of Akron as a postdoctoral researcher, where she is investigating the role of mineral surfaces and dissolved ions in the evolution of a model protocells. She is also involved in exploring role of photocatalytic minerals as “prebiotic enzymes” in the transduction of light energy into chemical energy for protometabolic processes across the lipid membrane. She is also interested in prebiotic peptide chemistry and biosignatures in the search for extant life using alteration processes on molecules.

Selected publications: 

Dalai, P. & Sahai, N. “Mineral-Lipid Interactions in the Origins of Life.” Accepted Trends Biochem. Sci.

Dalai, P. & Sahai, N. “Protocell emergence and evolution.” In Handbook of Astrobiology, ed. Vera Kolb., 2018. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL., Chapter 7.1.

Dalai, P., Ustriyana, P. & Sahai, N. “Aqueous magnesium as an environmental selection pressure in the evolution of phospholipid membranes on early Earth.” Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 2018, 223 216-228.

Sahai, N., Kaddour, H., Dalai, P., Wang, Z., Bass, G. & Gao, M. “Mineral surface chemistry and nanoparticle-aggregation control membrane self-assembly.” Sci. Rep. 2017, 7, 43418. doi: 10.1038/srep43418.

Sahai, N., Kaddour, H. & Dalai, P. “The transition from geochemistry to biogeochemistry.” Elements 2016, 12, 389-394. Thematic issue on the Origins of Life.

Dalai, P., Kaddour, H. & Sahai, N. “Incubating Life: Prebiotic sources of organics for the chemical origins of life.” Elements 2016, 12, 401-406. Thematic issue on the Origins of Life.

Dalai, P., Pleyer, H.L., Strasdeit, H. & Fox, S. “The influence of mineral matrices on the thermal behavior of glycine.” Orig. Life Evol. Biosph. 2016, doi: 10.1007/s11084-016-9523-0

Fox, S., Dalai, P., Lambert, J.-F. & Strasdeit, H. “Hypercondensation of an amino acid: Characterization of a black glycine polymer.” Chem. Eur. J. 2015, 21, 8897-8904.