How does electronegativity influence the nature of reactions?
Electronegativity creates an unequal sharing of electrons between two atoms. This can make chemical reactions either harder or easier to occur depending on the reaction itself. This also created partial charges on atoms which creates a dipole moment. These partial charges are responsible for major aspects of life as we know it from allowing hydrogen bonding to create water or london forces.
How important was the vital-force theory during it's time? How does chemistry pertain to life? How does structure influence function of life?
The vital-force theory was a revolutionizing concept that showed the world that organic material can be forged from inorganic elements. This created a connection between all chemicals found in nature. For the second question, I would expect the student to simply describe a connection between chemistry and life. This can vary greatly from describing why carbon is the best atom in structuring life or perhaps how the structure of DNA allows for life to exist and repair and evolve. The last question is a thought experiment. The student can explain the nature of isomers and how these small differences influence the body. An example could be the D form and L form of compounds used in medicine.
With NASA's ultimate quest to find life elsewhere in the universe, what factors would you suggest them to look for to find life? Will the life we find one day be simple microbes, complex multicellular organisms like us, or even trans-humanistic species that have evolved into a type II society? Do you believe life is a rare event or simply a by-product of the correct elements?
The appropriate answer for the first question would be: water, appropriate heat, and organic material. The second question goes hand in hand with the third. It is an important question to ask with the recent discoveries of exoplanets. If the student believes that life is an ultra-rare event, then perhaps the most we could find are primitive microbes or at most some characteristics of multicellularity. On the other hand, if the student believes that complexity is prevalent throughout the cosmos, then perhaps we could find multicellular life like our own or even life that has transcended biology.