James Ferris is a Research Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and Director of the New York Center for Studies on the Origins of Life at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. His postdoctoral studies were performed at MIT and the Salk Institute. Ferris joined Rensselaer in 1967 and in 1969 was awarded a NIH Career Award, which enabled him to expand the scope of his studies to research programs at the interface of chemistry and biology. He held visiting appointments at the NASA Ames Research Center, the Eidgenossiche Technische Hochschule in Zurich and the Salk Institute. He served as editor of the Journal Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere for 18 years and chaired the NASA Exobiology Advisory Committee for five years. Ferris is a Trustee of the Universities Space Research Association representing the Northeastern U.S. region. In 1996 he was awarded the Oparin Medal of the International Society for the Study of the Origins of Life for his research on the origins of life.