understanding the origins and evolution of life

About 3 billion years ago, the earth went through what is arguably one of the most important transitions in history.

 

Molecules that were independently ‘not alive’ came together to form a living cell.

 

We don’t understand how this first living cell arose. Nor do we know if it happened once, numerous times, or, for that matter, elsewhere in the universe.

But that's not it.

Once the first cells arose, they could evolve. The confluence of three rudimentary processes—mutations, selection, and drift—shaped what was presumably an identical population of primitive cells into the staggering diversity of life we see today. How did we evolve something as complicated as the brain, or as ubiquitous as the nucleus, from rudimentary, primitive bacteria? We have absolutely no idea.

One way to approach these problems is to look at shadows from our past. Rare but preserved fossils, patterns in DNA, and our understanding of current and past biogeochemistry can tell us different things about these major transitions in evolution. But (in my opinion) they are unsatisfactory because ultimately they are only inferences.

 

Instead, my vision is to build an experimental framework to explore the major transitions in evolution. Using experimental evolution, molecular engineering, high throughput sequencing, and carefully selected selection pressures (or ‘environmental engineering’), I believe important historical events can be reproduced within a laboratory in real time.

 

My PhD attempts to understand the origins of the first living cell, of eukaryotes, and evolution of new bacterial species. Learn more about these projects here. If you’re looking for an internship or a collaboration opportunity, please see here and contact me directly!

current and past projects

Are you looking to collaborate with me on a specific project? Or maybe just a summer internship? Find updates on my work here and drop me an email.

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about me

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Updates!

September 2017 | Got tons of volleyball and a some bits of science done; back at MSU!

June 2017 | Starting my summer at the Desai lab at Harvard -- exciting times ahead