Joint CMU-Pitt Ph.D. Program in Computational Biology Seminar

  • Remote Access - Zoom
  • Virtual Presentation - ET
  • Principal Investigator
  • Evolutionary Dynamics Group
  • Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia Oeiras, Portugal

Fitness landscapes and the predictability of evolution

Fitness landscapes, which map genotypes or phenotypes to fitness, have developed from a theoretical metaphor into a popular subject of experimental study. The quantification of the shape of fitness landscapes carries the promise to inform us about the nature of adaptation, the probability of speciation, and the predictability of evolution; yet, the true dimensionality of fitness landscapes is so immense that even large data sets can only cover a small area of the total sequence or phenotype space. Thus, the question emerges whether we can use theoretical or statistical approaches to extrapolate from the observed landscape to the surrounding area or even the whole organism's fitness landscape, and what a given experimental landscape can teach us about evolution in natural populations. I will discuss these questions under consideration of experimental data and highlight the challenges when trying to bridge our theoretical and empirical knowledge of fitness landscapes. 

Claudia Bank has been heading the Division of Theoretical Ecology and Evolution at the Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the University of Bern in Switzerland since October 2020. After an undergraduate in Mathematics in Germany, she gradually moved towards biology. She received her PhD in Population Genetics from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna (Austria) in 2012, during which she worked on theoretical models of parapatric speciation. After a postdoc at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (Switzerland), during which she also spent five months as a research fellow of the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing at UC Berkeley, she started her own research group at the Gulbenkian Science Institute in Oeiras (Portugal) in 2016. She is currently supported by several international grants that allow her to continue her theoretical and statistical work regarding fitness landscapes and their role in adaptation and speciation, which is occasionally complemented by laboratory experiments. 

Faculty Host: Oana Carja (CMU)

Zoom Participation. See announcement.

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