Topic description / abstract:
My research focuses on understanding ‘major evolutionary transitions’, events in the history of life that have resulted in large increases in biological complexity. Classic examples include the evolution of the eukaryotic cell, multicellular organisms and superorganismal societies. Despite seeming very different, all major evolutionary transitions are united by similar underlying evolutionary forces favouring high levels of cooperation between genes, cells or organisms leading to the evolution of new ‘higher level’ individuals. I use a combination of experimental and comparative techniques to ask questions about how and why major evolutionary transitions occur. In my current position, I am investigating the role of division of labour in the evolution of multicellular complexity using baker's yeast as a model system.
I was awarded my BA in Biological Sciences from Oxford University in 2010, where I then continued onto my DPhil between 2012-2015 under the supervision of Prof. Stu West. My DPhil focused on understanding the factors favouring major evolutionary transitions, and particularly multicellularity, using a combination of experimental and comparative methods. After my DPhil, I moved to Amsterdam to work with Prof. Toby Kiers at Vrije Universiteit, where I worked on the evolution of symbiosis. In 2017, I was awarded a Distinguished Post-doctoral Fellowship from the Carlsberg Foundation, to work with Prof. Koos Boomsma at the University of Copenhagen. In my current position in Copenhagen, I am using baker's yeast as a model system to understand multicellular evolution and continuing using comparative methods to investigate major evolutionary transitions more broadly.