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Altenberg Lee | Fellow Senior
2014-04-01 - 2016-05-01 | Research area: EvoDevo
Advancing Theory on the Evolution of Variational Properties of Organisms
My principal project at KLI would be to establish a more comprehensive mathematical framework than currently exists for understanding the evolution of evolvability and robustness --- a subject that despite its rapidly growing body of work remains piecemeal, and where a comprehensive treatment could, I believe, put the existing results in perspective and reveal new directions of inquiry. In particular I wish to focus on the relationship between equilibrium and far-from-equilibrium dynamics and the variational properties that come along with these dynamics. My recent work has focused on the evolution of probabilities of transformation in near-equilibrium populations; the `reduction principle' manifest in this domain appears to also operate on magnitudes and directions of transformation in the form of canalization. The underlying mathematical unity found for transformation probabilities prompts one to ask whether this unity also extends to transformation magnitudes and directions. The most challenging area mathematically is far-from-equilibrium, but this is where the evolution of evolvability is mainly generated. Developing new theory for far-from-equilibrium dynamics will be a focus of this project. Specific topics include: The Theory of `Growth and Mixing'; The Evolution of Evolvability under Recurrent Environmental Variation; Thresholds between Evolvability and Robustness; Determinants for the Evolution of Mutational Robustness; A Complex Systems-based Quantitative Genetics.