BMSIS Scientist Feature: Dr. Jim Cleaves

Henderson "Jim" Cleaves

By Daniel Runyan


What is the origin of life? This question can loosely sum up what Dr. Jim Cleaves has been so devoted to studying for most of his scientific career. When he learned that the origins of life itself was a valid field of study, he just knew that he had to focus his research on that question. The evolution of molecules and the boundary of where the inorganic becomes organic are exactly the kind of problems that led Jim to become an expert in chemistry, biochemistry, and astrobiology. His research intends to help us understand how organic compounds can form in planetary environments, how we use them as evidence of biology, and where these compounds come from in the first place.

Those are some lofty research goals! But Jim is confident that, through working together on an international scale, the world will eventually be able to find an answer to these questions.

When he first learned about the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science, the great support for gathering voices all around the world in the pursuit of scientific discovery was what caught his eye. Jim notes that networking and outreach in science is our best bet for answering the toughest questions. It is only through cooperation that we can continue to make more and more meaningful scientific breakthroughs. We are simply going to make more progress working together than working apart!

Jim is the president of the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life (ISSOL). ISSOL is an non-profit organization focused on the origins of life, and it has kept the field organized and growing for nearly fifty years. It seeks to connect and support any and all researchers concerned with the origin of life, whether that be with grants or opportunities in employment and education. Jim encourages everyone interested in the origin of life to join and attend an upcoming ISSOL virtual meeting on October 18-22, 2021!


Daniel Runyan is an undergraduate at New Mexico Tech. He is a Research Associate for the BMSIS Young Scientist Program and a Communications Intern for the National Caves and Karst Research Institute.