Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Keon Abedi L&S Math & Physical Sciences

Evolutionary Dynamics in Non-delta Autocorrelated Environmental Noise.

This project will investigate how the frequency of a mutation changes over time when in the presence of correlated environmental noise. This is an open question in the biophysics of evolutionary dynamics, which seeks a quantitative framework for Darwin’s theory of natural selection. The core idea of evolution is that a mutation’s frequency tends to increase over generations when it offers an advantage to its hosts. For example, in an environment with antibiotics, mutations conferring antibiotic resistance are strongly favored and can quickly become prevalent across a bacterial population; we say there is a high “fixation probability”. However, this changes when organisms are subjected to temporally-structured or seasonal environments: a mutation beneficial in one epoch but unhelpful or costly at other times is less likely to be found at high frequencies. By extending mathematical models of evolution to also account for such not-totally-uncorrelated (more formally: “non-delta autocorrelated”) environmental noise, I will aim to calculate the fixation probability of a mutation in these conditions, and to explore its implications for microbial evolution.

Message To Sponsor

Thank you so much for your generous contribution to the SURF program. Thanks to you, I’ll be able to explore the frontier of a field that I find very exciting, and hopefully grow as a biophysicist, problem-solver, and person in the process. I look forward to carrying out this research, and am really grateful for your making this possible.
Major: Physics and Molecular and Cell Biology
Mentor: Oskar Hallatschek
Sponsor: Anselm MPS Fund
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