Department of Zoology, Ecology, Evolution, and Behavioral Biology Program, Michigan State University, BEACON
mwiser at msu dot edu
My Google Scholar profile
Broadly speaking, I'm interested in the replicability and predictability of evolutionary processes. This has involved adaptation to environmental temperature and perturbations in this variable, the evolutionary fate of duplicate genes, living system examples of game theory interactions, the degree to which fitness gains depend on the environment in which fitness is assayed, experimental tests of the cost of horizontal gene transfer, and the role of epistasis in beneficial adaptations.
I work primarily on E. coli, because the fast generation times and large population sizes in this system make it possible to carry out evolutionary studies which would not be possible on most other experimental organisms. My thesis project concerns tracking the change in fitness over time in the 12 populations of the Long Term Evolution Experiment. I am using this data investigate how similar of changes we observe across independent biological replicates from an initial starting condition, and whether we can use current data to predict extremely long-term trends in fitness.
I am beginning to branch out from the purely wet-lab experience by learning how to use the AVIDA system to study certain evolutionary questions in a way that is not practical with physical organisms. The AVIDA system is particularly interesting, as it's an instantiation of evolution, not a simulation thereof. While I'm geared more toward experiment than simulation in my work, I do recognize the value of simulation in exploring sensitivity to parameters. Simulations are also valuable in determining whether we know which parameters are most important for a given situation, because models which consistently match experimental results indicate that the models. Fundamentally, though, I feel significantly more can be learned from experimentation than from simulation, when experimentation is feasible.
1: Wielgoss, S., J. E. Barrick, O. Tenaillon, M. J. Wiser, W. J. Dittmar, S. Cruveiller, B. Chane-Woon-Ming, C. Médigue, R. E. Lenski, and D. Schneider. 2013. Mutation rate dynamics in a bacterial population reflect tension between adaptation and genetic load. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 110:222-227. Abstract
Dr. Richard Lenski. Rich is the reason I'm here at MSU, and his Long Term Experimental Evolution project offers a wealth of research opportunities to someone with my interests.
Dr. Dominique Schneider. Dom is a fantastic molecular biologist and molecular geneticist, with strong interests in evolutionary questions. I am deeply indebted to Dom for his help in making the constructs I need for some of my projects.
Dr. Thomas Schmidt. Tom has been helping me overcome my relative lack of training in molecular microbiology, so that I can put into practice some concepts which I had previously only learned of in theory.
Dr. Steven Finkel. Steve gave me my start in biological research, and has continued to provide me with guidance and research assistance even well past my graduating from his lab. At the basic level, if it weren't for Steve I would probably not have realized the advantage of microbes for research into questions I find interesting. Without his support, it's even questionable whether I would have ended up in biological academia.
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