Richard Lenski

Richard  Lenski
  • John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor
  • Microbiology & Molecular Genetics
  • Integrative Biology
  • Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences


Richard Lenski is a John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor in the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences. In addition to his appointment in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Lenski is affiliated with multiple departments in the College of Natural Science. 

Lenski earned his BA from Oberlin College, and his PhD from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Lenski is an evolutionary biologist, a MacArthur ‘genius’ fellow, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His laboratory at Michigan State University focuses on experimental evolution using the approach of watching evolution as it happens. He works with organisms that replicate, mutate and evolve quickly. Lenski is internationally well-known for his long-term evolution experiment with E. coli, in which his research team has founded 12 replicate populations from the same ancestor. These populations have evolved for more than 50,000 generations, and the experiment remains ongoing.

Lenski's research has received considerable attention, including lengthy discussion in Carl Zimmer's book on E. coli, Microcosm, and in Richard Dawkins' book on the evidence for evolution, The Greatest Show on Earth. It has caught the attention of mainstream media such as the New York Times, Discover, and MSNBC. He is a prolific writer, and embraces social media to give exposure to his work.