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Research Interests

 

“Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution”
Theodosius Dobzhansky

Nothing in Evolution Makes Sense except in the Light of Population Genetics
Michael Lynch

 

These two quotes perhaps summarize best what I have learned during my PhD, and provide the most broad definition of my research interest. Reading literature and attending seminars I was offered a glimpse of how practically every area of biology, from molecular genetics to ecology, is being revolutionized by large scale, quantitative experiments and the ongoing exponential growth of the number of fully-sequenced genomes, i.e. by the availability of unprecedented amount of quantitative data. As a student of physics I saw the clear opportunity of contributing to an emerging quantitative, functional understanding of biological systems, using concepts and methods of statistical physics. In the course of the past few years these ambitions have, however, lost some of there naiveté and have perhaps gained some focus. Studying the current results of the relentless boom in cataloging patterns of diversity in organization and function at various levels of biological organization ranging from gene regulatory networks to cell signaling pathways and beyond, I saw that there has been substantially less progress in synthesizing the ever growing body of knowledge in to a quantitative theory of e.g. gene regulation or development. Progress toward a quantitative synthesis will, I believe, require achieving a greater understanding of biological function and complexity as an emergent result of the fundamental evolutionary processes of selection, mutation, recombination and drift. The basic theoretical machinery for describing these processes - population genetics theory, highlighted by the names of it's early pioneers Wright, Fisher and Haldane - is in place. The challenge is to use this understanding together with the plethora of data on genomic sequences, gene regulation and protein interactions to discover the quantitative laws of genome and regulatory network design, ultimately of biological ‘function’, as an emergent result of evolution.

(figure reproduced without permission from Nat Rev Genet 4:99)