We want to understand the mechanics of evolution. Exactly what molecules change? Which ones matter? In what ways are these changes beneficial (or not) to the cell? What about the side effects?
We are answering these questions using microbes. Microbes reproduce rapidly in large populations, so we can watch evolution happening in real time on the lab bench.
Specific projects include:
–Yeast and alcohol: Like us humans, yeast has a long-standing and complex relationship with alcohol– it can be toxic, a food a waste product or a weapon. We’re dissecting this relationship using evolution.
–Yeast behaviour: Real environments are complex places and even a yeast has to read and respond to many environmental cues, sometimes in surprising ways: while for some humans a hot day is a cue for a beer, heat also prepares a yeast cell to deal with alcohol. We’re uncovering how this network of cues and responses has evolved in different yeasts.
–Theory and practice: much of the mathematical theory around evolution was developed before biology’s molecular era. Working with mathematicians we are exploring how a molecular view can lead to new insights into the processes of evolution.