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Stephen J Freeland

INDS Director, Associate Dean of UAA

Biological Sciences
Individualized Study Program (INDS)

Fine Arts 005


Ph D Camrbidge University 1998

MS University of York 1993

BA Oxford University 1991


From 1998-2009 I worked primarily as an individual scientific researcher ("PI") using computers to study the evolutionary origins of the central dogma of molecular biology. This work continues through a focus to explore alternatives to the "alphabet" of 20 amino acids with which genetic material evolved to encode proteins.

Since 2009 I have devoted more time to developing team-based academic projects and programs. In terms of research, this activity occurs around broad questions of astrobiology and abiogenesis. In terms of teaching and administration I work by leading UMBC's Individualized Study program, INDS and by serving as Associate Dean for Undergraduate Academic Affairs.

Research Interests

Abiogenesis: Evolutionary chemical informatics, specifically generating and analyzing amino acid structures beyond those known to biology.

Synthetic biology: Creating informatics tools to collate and analyze the mushrooming world of non-coded amino acids that experimentalists ("wet lab" researchers) have already incorporated into protein synthesis.

Broader active interests are the evolution of fundamental biochemistry, astrobiology, abiogenesis and biosignatures.

Teaching Interests

INDS core courses: INDS330, INDS335, INDS399, INDS480, INDS490

BIOL770: Amino Acid Alphabet Evolution

Intellectual Contributions

Brown, S M., Voráček, V, Freeland, Stephen. (2023). What Would an Alien Amino Acid Alphabet Look Like and Why?. 5. 23 536-549 Astrobiology.

Mayer-Bacon, Christopher, Freeland, Stephen. (2021). A broader context for understanding amino acid alphabet optimality. 520 110661 Journal of Theoretical Biology.

Boring, Emily, Stump, JB, Freeland, Stephen. (2020). Rethinking Abiogenesis: Part 1, Continuity of Life through Time.. 1. 72 Perspectives on Science \& Christian Faith.

Jarzynski, Mark, Engel, Donald, Freeland, Stephen, Boot, Lee R., Murnane, Mark, Lindvig, Katrine, Hillersdal, Line, Earle, David. (2020). . Companion of the 2020 ACM International Conference on Supporting Group Work 127-013 New York, NY: Association for Computing Machinery.

Ilardo, Melissa, Bose, Rudrarup, Meringer, Markus, Rasulev, Bakhtiyor, Grefenstette, Natalie, Stephenson, James, Freeland, Stephen, Gillams, Richard J., Butch, Christopher J., Cleaves, H James. (2019). Adaptive properties of the genetically encoded amino acid alphabet are inherited from its subsets. 1. 9 1--9 Scientific reports.

Ilardo, Melissa, Meringer, Markus, Freeland, Stephen, Rasulev, Bakhtiyor, Cleaves, II, H James. (2015). Extraordinarily adaptive properties of the genetically encoded amino acids. 1. 5 1--6 Scientific reports.

Ilardo, Melissa A., Freeland, Stephen. (2014). Testing for adaptive signatures of amino acid alphabet evolution using chemistry space. 1. 5 1--9 Journal of Systems Chemistry.

Stephenson, James D., Freeland, Stephen. (2013). Unearthing the root of amino acid similarity. 4. 77 159--169 Journal of molecular evolution.

Meringer, Markus, Cleaves, H James., Freeland, Stephen. (2013). Beyond terrestrial biology: Charting the chemical universe of $\alpha$-amino acid structures. 11. 53 2851--2862 Journal of chemical information and modeling.

Philip, Gayle K., Freeland, Stephen. (2011). Did evolution select a nonrandom “alphabet” of amino acids?. 3. 11 235--240 Astrobiology.

Freeland, Stephen. (2009). “Terrestrial” amino acids and their evolution. 1 43--75 Amino Acids, Peptides and Proteins in Organic Chemistry: Origins and Synthesis of Amino Acids.

Barrow, John D., Morris, Simon Conway., Freeland, Stephen, Harper, Jr, Charles L. (2008). Fitness of the cosmos for life. Biochemistry and fine tuning. Cambridge U. Press.

Freeland, Stephen. (2008). Could an intelligent alien predict earth’s biochemistry?. 280 Biochemistry and Fine-Tuning.

Lu, Yi, Freeland, Stephen. (2008). A quantitative investigation of the chemical space surrounding amino acid alphabet formation. 2. 250 349--361 Journal of theoretical biology.

Zhu, Wen, Freeland, Stephen. (2006). The standard genetic code enhances adaptive evolution of proteins. 1. 239 63--70 Journal of theoretical biology.

Lu, Yi, Freeland, Stephen. (2006). Testing the potential for computational chemistry to quantify biophysical properties of the non-proteinaceous amino acids. 4. 6 606--624 Astrobiology.

Wu, Gang, Wolf, Julie B., Ibrahim, Ameer F., Vadasz, Stephanie, Gunasinghe, Muditha, Freeland, Stephen. (2006). Simplified gene synthesis: a one-step approach to PCR-based gene construction. 3. 124 496--503 Journal of biotechnology.

Lu, Yi, Freeland, Stephen. (2006). On the evolution of the standard amino-acid alphabet. 1. 7 1--6 Genome biology.

Freeland, Stephen, Hurst, Laurence D. (2004). Evolution encoded. 4. 290 84--91 Scientific American.

Knight, Rob D., Freeland, Stephen, Landweber, Laura F. (2004). Adaptive evolution of the genetic code. The genetic code and the origin of life 201--220 Springer.

Freeland, Stephen. (2003). Three fundamentals of the biological genetic algorithm. Genetic programming theory and practice 303--311 Springer.

Freeland, Stephen, Wu, Tao, Keulmann, Nick. (2003). The case for an error minimizing standard genetic code. 4. 33 457--477 Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere.

Freeland, Stephen. (2002). The Darwinian genetic code: an adaptation for adapting?. 2. 3 113--127 Genetic Programming and Evolvable Machines.

Knight, Robin D., Freeland, Stephen, Landweber, Laura F. (2001). Rewiring the keyboard: evolvability of the genetic code. 1. 2 49--58 Nature Reviews Genetics.

Knight, Robin D., Freeland, Stephen, Landweber, Laura F. (1999). Selection, history and chemistry: the three faces of the genetic code. 6. 24 241--247 Trends in biochemical sciences.

Freeland, Stephen, Knight, Robin D., Landweber, Laura F. (1999). Do proteins predate DNA?. 5440. 286 690--692 Science.

Freeland, Stephen, Hurst, Laurence D. (1998). The genetic code is one in a million. 3. 47 238--248 Journal of molecular evolution.

Freeland, Stephen, McCABE, BRIDGET K. (1997). Fitness compensation and the evolution of selfish cytoplasmic elements. 4. 78 391--402 Heredity.