Microbial population genomics & evolution

Self-portraits using E. coli. From top to bottom, left to right: Cooper, Cheryl, Josh, Isaiah, John, Jennifer, Griffin, Michael, Thomas. UNH, Feb 2020

Self-portraits using E. coli
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Research expertise: Population genomics, microbial evolution, genomic epidemiology, infectious diseases, evolution of antimicrobial resistance

Current work in the lab aims to elucidate the evolutionary processes and ecological factors that drive the genomic diversification and adaptation of microbial populations in different environments. We ask the question: "Why are members of the same species different?"

Using an inter-disciplinary approach combining next-generation sequencing (genomics), population genetics, phylogenetics and lab-based assays, we examine inter-strain and inter-species variation:

1. What are the origins of inter-strain genomic variation in microbes? Are these differences neutral or adaptive? To what extent are these differences clinically relevant?

2. To what extent do barriers and biases in horizontal gene transfer and recombination impact species boundaries?

3. What evolutionary and ecological mechanisms keep microbial lineages separate once they begin to diverge?

4. What are the rules that govern microbial population assembly in natural habitats? How do individual species and strains behave and adapt in response to selective pressures?