The transition to multicellularity was critical for the evolution of of large, complex organisms. However, little is known about how early multicellular organisms arise from unicellular ancestors, or how these relatively simple clusters of cells evolve greater complexity. We address both of these issues using experimental evolution, creating new multicellular life in a test tube. Below are examples of experimentally-evolved multicellular yeast and algae which started the experiment as single-celled microbes.
Using these model systems, my lab explores the origin of multicellular development, cellular division of labor, and mechanisms to prevent cell-level evolution from eroding multicellular complexity.
Major transitions in evolution (e.g. multicellularity) are a special case of a more general phenomenon: social evolution. Using microbes as model organisms, my lab explores the role of social interactions in diverse evolutionary processes. I am most interested in the role hidden social interactions play in well-studied phenomena, such as dormancy (American Naturalist, 2013), antibiotic production (Science, 2011) and aging (PLoS ONE, 2009).
Please see my research page for more information.