The origins of life on the early Earth was probably chemical in nature, but physical effects including mass transfer and viscosity may also have been critical in driving polymerization, replication, and the emergence of chemical function. The Grover lab is working to design and analyze systems that demonstrate rudimentary properties of chemical evolution. The prebiotic soup was probably extremely messy, and their approach is to design chemical systems with enough complexity to demonstrate evolution, but not so messy that they cannot be measured and modeled. Mathematical modeling is used to interpret experimental results, to direct new experiments, and to design appropriate environments for achieving chemical evolution. See (Nature Chemistry) for a recent publication using viscosity to facilitate nucleic acid polymer replication and (PCCP) for a model of protopeptide polymerization.
Prof. Grover has collaborated with several artists to communicate her research beyond the academic community. Projects including Group Intelligence, a collaboration with Out of Hand Theater, and First Life, a string-quartet composition with Steve Everett. She is also the faculty lead for Education, Outreach, and Diversity in the CCE.
When not studying chemical evolution, Prof. Grover enjoys playing at the neighborhood park with her husband and four-year-old daughter.