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Molecular Evolution

Group leader: Anders Gorm Pedersen
Members: Emma Hagberg, Ulrik Fahnøe
Guest members: Asli Ismihan Özen, Henrik Nielsen

Catalog of previous student projects.


Evolutionary theory is the conceptual foundation of the life sciences. The famous geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky expressed this very well when he said, "Nothing in biology makes sense, except in the light of evolution". In the post-genomic era this insight is more relevant than ever, and only by taking the theory of evolution into account is it possible to get a handle on organizing and analyzing the massive amount of biological data now available. In the Molecular Evolution Group we are interested in applying phylogenetic methods to analyze specific biological systems, but also in using the flood of sequence data to learn about the evolutionary process itself.

A focus of much of the research done in the Molecular Evolution Group is the evolution of pathogenic organisms such as HIV, influenza, and the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. In particular, we are interested in how knowledge of the evolutionary processes that occur during infection and transmission of a pathogen can be used as the basis for deriving strategies for fighting the disease. As an example, patterns of sequence variation across a population of influenza viruses close to the time when the virus has jumped from, say, an avian to a human host, will contain information about the selective pressures acting at that point. This knowledge can be directly useful for monitoring when new species jumps are imminent but may also form the basis for designing interventions aimed at hindering such jumps. Our work on pathogen evolution is done in close collaboration with experimental groups at a number of universities and hospitals.

Other projects in the Molecular Evolution Group include investigations into the evolution of resistance to antibiotics, evolution and origin of introns, de novo evolution of genes, and evolution of evolvability (the ability of biological systems to evolve). Generally, we are interested in all aspects of evolution, and while we are very interested in developing and applying state-of-the-art computational tools in our work (especially in the framework of probabilistic model selection and multimodel inference), the focus is always on analyzing problems that are interesting from a biological point of view.

The phylogeny of all life as proposed by Ernst Haeckel (1866)


Full list of Anders Gorm Pedersen's publications
All Molecular Evolution Group publications