Plenary Talks

Chris Jiggins
Professor of Evolutionary Biology- Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge; Director of Studies in Natural Sciences (Biological) – St John’s College, University of Cambridge
I am a Professor at the University of Cambridge. I study adaption and speciation in the Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths).  In particular I am interested in studying how species converge due to mimicry, as a model for understanding the predictability of evolution, and the genetic and ecological causes of speciation.  We approach this problem from a variety of perspectives ranging from the developmental biology of wing pattern specification, through genomic studies of adaptation and divergence, through to behavioural and ecological studies in the field. We have also led the development of genomics in the Lepidoptera and recently published the full genome sequence of Heliconius melpomene. In the past my group has also studied the genetic basis of insecticide resistance in the agricultural pest, diamondback moth. Find out more about our research here
Talk title: The population genomics of adaptation and speciation in tropical butterflies
Tami Lieberman
T​ami​ Lieberman​ obtained her PhD in Systems Biology at Harvard University, working in the laboratory of Roy Kishony, and did her postdoctoral training in Eric Alm’s laboratory at MIT. Her lab opened at MIT in January 2018. ​ ​The Lieberman Lab is dedicated to bringing about a future in which we can predictably and precisely manipulate human microbiomes, inspired by the potential of ​rational microbial-based therapies ​for treating disease and promot​ing​ wellness​.

​The Lieberman lab uses population genomic studies to address mechanistic questions about​ how single species and strains colonize human microbiomes, with a focus on skin microbiomes. We leverage the mutations that bacteria accumulate during colonization of individual people and evolutionary inference methods to infer past migrations within and across body sites, selective pressures faced by bacteria in vivo, and the molecular strategies used to adapt to these pressures. Crucially, these inferences can be performed without longitudinal studies, because bacterial strains diversify within hosts to form co-existing lineages that preserve a record of their natural history within the host. Other favored approaches include high-throughput culturing and experiments, computational tool development, and interrogation of spatial structure.

In addition to parsing out the determinants of colonization, we are also interested in understanding the implications of within-person evolution of commensals: Does within-person adaptation contribute to community stability? Do species-species interactions vary from one person to the next because of de novo mutations and horizontal gene transfer?​ We are also excited about using humans as microcosms for studying patterns or rapid adaptation. Since within-person evolution ​often leads to long-lasting diversification (many years) that preserves a record of a lineage’s history within the host, we can rapidly read into the recent past evolution across many people.

Helmholtz Career Development Assistant Professor-MIT;  Assistant Professor- Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Core Member- Institute for Medical Engineering and Science
Talk title: Evolution within individual human gut and skin microbiomes
Pleuni Pennings
I am an evolutionary biologist and work on the evolution of drug resistance in HIV. I want to understand what determines the rate of evolution of drug resistance, so that we can find ways to halt the evolution of drug resistance. Before switching to HIV, I worked on ants, sympatric speciation and soft sweeps. I am an assistant professor at San Francisco State University. I also write and tweet and make video’s. In my classrooms and my lab I make an effort to create a welcoming environment so that everyone can thrive, including people from groups who are traditionally not well represented in quantitative science such as minority, women and LGBTQ students.
Assistant Professor- Biology Department of San Francisco State University
Talk title: How did we stop HIV evolution? 
Günter P. Wagner
Alison Richard Professor and Acting Chair of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences – Yale University; and Adjunct Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology – Wayne State University
Talk title: TBC


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