Michael M. Desai

Michael M. Desai

Fisher Professor of Natural History
Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology
Michael Desai

Faculty Support: Melinda Peterson

Natural selection and other evolutionary forces leave characteristic signatures in the genetic variation within populations. My group uses a combination of theoretical and experimental approaches to study how this genetic variation is created and maintained, and to develop methods to infer the evolutionary history of populations from the variation observed in sequence data. Our focus is primarily on natural selection in asexual populations such as microbes and viruses. We are developing new approaches to population genetic theory to better understand the structure of genetic variation in these populations. We complement this with high-throughput experimental evolution in budding yeast, evolving thousands of lines simultaneously to explore the distributions of phenotypic changes and their correlations with the evolution of genetic variation within and between populations.

Recent Publications

I. E. Ochs and M. M. Desai. 2015. The competition between simple and complex evolutionary trajectories in asexual populations. BMC Evolutionary Biology. 15: 55.
E. M. Frenkel, M. J. McDonald, J. D. van Dyken, K. Kosheleva, G. I. Lang, and M. M. Desai. 2015. Crowded Growth Leads to the Spontaneous Evolution of Semi-Stable Coexistence in Laboratory Yeast Populations. PNAS. 112: 11306-13111. 
D. P. Rice, B. H. Good, and M. M. Desai. 2015. The evolutionarily stable distribution of fitness effects. Genetics. 200: 321-329. 
I. Cvijovic, B. H. Good, E. R. Jerison, and M. M. Desai. 2015. Fate of a Mutation in a Fluctuating Environment. PNAS. 112: E5021-E5028.
M. M. Desai and A. M. Walczak. 2015. Flexible Gene Pools. Science. 348: 977-978.
Courses Taught
OEB 242 Population Genetics (co-taught with Dan Hartl)
OEB 375 Evolutionary Dynamics and Populations Genetics


Contact Information

Northwest Building 457
52 Oxford Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
p: 617-496-3613


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