Dr Randall S Perry

Senior Research Investigator, Imperial College London


Biogeochemistry


Biogeochemistry seeks to understand the relationships between biological products and minerals. A similar area of research but with a slightly different emphasis is organic geochemistry where organic compounds and inorganic molecules interface. This area includes the important topic of organic molecules, such as amino acids in meteorites. The only existing record of life in the solar system that predates life’s origin on Earth or Mars are carbonaceous meteorites that are as old as the solar system (~4.5 Ga). Ancient fossils on Earth may date back as far as ~3.5 Ga or nearly as long as the rock record exists. Another similar area of interest is geomicrobiology that seeks to understand the relationships between microbes, rocks and mineral surfaces. Good examples of this are rock coatings and other deposits found in deserts and hot-springs. The preservation of organic molecules in minerals, such as those in amorphous silica, may provide important information about paleoenvironments.  

Language Interests


Most people consider the language used by scientists to be the most precise and unambiguous form possible and so it should be. New terms are being coined all the time and must accurately describe new developments and discoveries. Terminology can influence the direction that scientific investigations take. I am interested in these and other questions regarding the relationship between language and science.

Research Projects and Interests


and their detection in ancient Earth environments and on other planets

Chemical Properties of Primordial Time


Primordial time includes systems in which organic and inorganic compounds are in a physical environment on early Earth such as, in Darwin's terms, a 'primordial soup', or a tidal pool, a hydrothermal vent, or a surface of a mineral. The Transition Zone bridges primordial time and the biotic world. Chemical evolution in the transition zone may or may not have led to life.

What is Life?


In order to design effective experiments to look for life or life's precursors here and on other planetary bodies, a definition of 'life" is necessary that does not constrain our thinking. We need a better understanding of the nature of living systems so that we can formulate a working description which will allow us to recognize life or its "fingerprints", regardless of the form.

Learning and Knowledge


Rather than behaviours or skills as the goal of instruction, cognitive development and deep understanding are the foci; rather than stages being the result of maturation, they are understood as constructions of active learner reorganization. Rather than viewing learning as a linear process, it is understood to be complex and fundamentally non-linear in nature. Fosnot and Perry (2005)


The UK Space Design Settlement Competition (uksdc.org) is founded on these principles.

Imperial Podcast


Rocks on Mars, and what they could tell us about life on Earth


In 2007 Dr Perry participated in Imperial College’s podcast, talking about rocks, life and missions to Mars. Listen to the podcast here or read the transcript.