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The Study of Molecular Evolution at Princeton University

An Interdisciplinary Program

Evolution is the core concept in biology, tying together insights from all biological disciplines into a coherent picture of the history of life. The study of evolution in the past half-century has made tremendous advances, fueled by discoveries in molecular biology and genetics that permit us to probe the process of evolution at its most fundamental level.

Molecular evolution has emerged as an interdisciplinary science, encompassing the study of molecules, metabolism, and the origins of life, the architecture, action and evolution of genomes, the population dynamics of genes, pathogens, and metagenomes in changing environments, the causes and consequences of species boundaries, and the molecular basis for organismal evolution.

Faculty, students, and postdoctoral fellows in several departments across campus (see list at right) pursue many aspects of molecular evolution in an interactive setting, complementing the strengths in EEB. The study of evolution at Princeton is notable because of the strong focus on examining evolutionary phenomena at all biological levels, from single molecules to populations. There is extensive opportunity for students interested in pursuing molecular evolution at Princeton.

The following EEB laboratories are the core members studying molecular evolution:

Peter Andolfatto
• Computational and experimental population genetics of Drosophila and butterflies
Laura Landweber
• Early molecular evolution of genomes, the genetic code, and epigenetics
Simon Levin
• Evolution of viruses, disease; metagenomics
Bridgett vonHoldt
• Evolutionary genomics and ecological epigenetics of canids

The following Princeton faculty also do research with a substantial molecular evolutionary component:

David Botstein • Experimental evolution in yeast on a genomic scale
Ted Cox
• The E. coli fitness landscape
Michael Hecht • Early evolution of proteins and metabolic networks
A. James Link • Directed evolution of proteins and altered genetic codes
Tullis Onstott
• Diversity of microbial life in extreme subsurface environments
Olga Troyanskaya
• Gene and chromosome duplication in evolution and carcinogenesis
Samuel Wang
• Biophysical principles of brain evolution
Bess Ward
• Diversity of microbes involved in biogeochemistry of the nitrogen cycle

Courses in EEB include:

Undergraduate
EEB 309: Evolutionary Biology
EEB 320/MOL 330: Molecular Evolutionary Genetics
EEB 360: Tropical Molecular Evolution
EEB 414: Genetics of Human Populations

Graduate
EEB 524: Topics in Evolution