Ernest Chi Fru
Ernest Chi Fru

The ERC Starting Grant is one of the most prestigious research grants in Europe. It is awarded by the European Research Council (ERC) to researchers early in their careers. Recently, it was announced that Ernest Chi Fru of Stockholm University receives the grant after a thorough selection process. Mr Chi Fru will get 1,486,374 euros over five years to work on the project “The Coevolution of Life and Arsenic in Precambrian Oceans.” 


Arsenic in oceans may explain delayed evolution of life

In this project, Ernest Chi Fru will examine the distribution of the toxic element arsenic in the world’s oceans two to three billion years ago, and how arsenic has affected the evolution of life. The presence of arsenic, which was a common element in the oceans, could explain why it took so long for complex life forms to evolve, two billion years after the oceans began to generate life-giving oxygen to the atmosphere.

The research will also explain the formation of sediments with high arsenic concentrations, which today is the source of arsenic contamination of groundwater, which affects millions of people in parts of Asia, South and North America and Africa.

Increased knowledge about the distribution of arsenic billions of years ago may help us to better manage the arsenic that occurs naturally in soil today. This research will also be relevant to astrobiology and the study of how life can arise on other planets similar to Earth.

“Nothing is more satisfying in science than to get resources to pursue your own ideas. The ERC grant will give me the opportunity to conduct research at a very high level, which could open many doors to me as an independent and established scientist. I feel that I’ve been challenged to think at the brightest level. This is what makes this opportunity exciting and scary at the same time,” says Ernest Chi Fru.

Article in Nature on bacteria and iron formation

Ernest Chi Fru has also, together with among others Curt Broman, Department of Geological Sciences at Stockholm University, published a scientific article in Nature Communications on June 20. In the article, the researchers show that a small bacterium may be responsible for most of the Earth's banded iron formation.

Link to the article: Fossilized iron bacteria reveal a pathway to the biological origin of banded iron formation