Vaughn Cooper, Ph.D. (Amherst College ’94)
Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics
Director, Center for Evolutionary Biology and Medicine
University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine
"Toward Translational Evolutionary Microbiology Using the Lens of Genomics"
I am an evolutionary geneticist and microbiologist whose lab applies genomic technology to understand ecological and evolutionary dynamics in microbial populations. We have pioneered methods for studying long-term evolution in biofilm populations and for measuring genome-wide mutation rates. Our focus is pathogen evolution that occurs during infections, but we also study eco-evolutionary dynamics in biofilms, the evolution of antimicrobial resistance, why genome regions mutate/evolve at different rates, and how the microbiome itself evolves with various conditions. As a teacher, I advocate for the study of evolution-in-action using hands-on experiments, which we’ve developed into a simple yet powerful curriculum for 9th-10th graders. This curriculum, called EvolvingSTEM, produces significant increases in learning of evolution and heredity, and also increases motivation towards pursuing STEM-related careers.