My name is Richard Underwood. I have had a varied and interesting life with many different types of employment, but in general it's true to say that I have not made the most of my university education and have wasted many of the opportunities that have come my way.
When I retired, and believing I still have thirty years ahead of me, I determined to spend at least ten years doing some of the research I had neglected to do earlier. As a consequence I am currently undertaking independent research using the facilities at the University of Manchester. I am aware that, with age, physical strength dims somewhat, but I am also aware that, uniquely, new connections are still being made between the neurons in my brain. I intend to make full use of this remarkable fact, and to learn many other remarkable facts to keep it company.
I intended my first research project to be research into the origins of life. However, I soon realised that 'life' was a hard thing to tie down, and despite there being thousands of different 'definitions of life', none of them have found universal approval. The 'Last Universal Common Ancestor' (LUCA) would probably have been discovered years ago if it was easily identifiable, so the fact that it has not yet been identified may mean that LUCA did not conform to our expectations. For example, many definitions of life include a requirement that living organisms have a cell, but it is possible the very first living organism was acellular, with the cell evolving later out of necessity.
It appeared to me that there was a need for a definition of life that covered the whole range of diversity from LUCA in the past, to the 'life' we may create in a test tube today, and to any life we may discover extra-terrestrially in the future. I deferred my research into the 'origins of life', and instead created a new 'definition of life' which I then tested against mules, viruses, plasmids, viroids, prions, artificial cells, chimera, computer viruses, self replicating machines and von Neumann probes, crystals, and fire. This first research project has recently been submitted to a peer reviewed journal for publication.
I have now turned my attention back to my original research into the 'origin of life', and that research is currently close to completion.