2016 nominees

Jonathan Eisen


Research in the lab focuses on the “phylogenomics of novelty” in microbes. Major research themes include:

  • The genomic basis for the origin and evolution of new functions.
  • The ecology and evolution of microbial communities.
  • The co-evolution of microbes and their carrying vessels (i.e., hosts).
  • Variation in “evolvability.”
  • The development of phylogeny-driven computational tools to analyze genomic and metagenomic sequence data.

The lab also has a major focus on various “open science” and “digital scholarship” activities. Examples include the microBEnet and ICIS projects.

Website: http://biosci3.ucdavis.edu/Faculty/Profile/View/345


David Gallo









David Gallo is an American oceanographer and Director of Special Projects at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. For more than 25 years, David has been at the forefront of ocean exploration, participating in and being witness to the development of new technologies and scientific discoveries that shape our view of planet earth. He has been described by TED Conferences as “an enthusiastic ambassador between the sea and those of us on dry land.” With more than 8 million views his TED presentation “Underwater Astonishments” is among the top three TED Talks viewed to date.

Website: http://www.whoi.edu/profile/dgallo










I am an evolutionary ecologist with strong interests in the processes that drive heterogeneity in hosts, parasites, and diseases. I’m particularly keen to understand the role of immune systems in brokering host-parasite interactions, generating substantial self-harm (or immunopathology), and altering transmission dynamics of parasites.

Recent projects in the Graham Group have focused on the following questions:

  • Why do sheep vary so much in antibody responsiveness?
  • What are the consequences of immunopathology for transmission of malaria parasites?
  • Which cytokines primarily drive a cytokine storm?
  • What are the relative roles of resource limitation and immunological killing in within-host control of parasite populations?
  • Why do adaptive immune responses cross-react?

Website: http://algraham.princeton.edu


Nick Lane









Dr Nick Lane is a British biochemist and writer. He was awarded the first Provost’s Venture Research Prize in the Department of

Genetics, Evolution and Environment at University College London, where he is now a Reader in Evolutionary Biochemistry. Dr Lane’s research deals with e

volutionary biochemistry and bioenergetics, focusing on the origin of life and the evolution of complex cells. Dr Lane was a founding member of the UCL Consortium for Mitochondrial Research, and is leading the UCL Research Frontiers Origins of Life programme. He was awarded the 2011 BMC Research Award for Genetics, Genomics, Bioinformatics and Evolution, and the 2015 Biochemical Society Award for his sustained and diverse contribution to the molecular life sciences and the public understanding of science.

Nick Lane is the author of four acclaimed books on evolutionary biochemistry, which have sold more than 100,000 copies worldwide, and have been translated into 20 languages.

Website: http://www.nick-lane.net/index.html


Scott Pitnick








Post-copulatory sexual selection (including sexual conflict) is a potent evolutionary force that can drive rapid divergence in reproductive traits. The Pitnick Lab is generally interested in the variety of ways in which members of the same sex compete for fertilizations and in which males and females cooperate with and/or attempt to manipulate one another in order to maximize their own fitness. We investigate the genetics and adaptive significance of variation in female reproductive tract design and of sperm production and use strategies in insects (presently fruit flies, yellow dung flies, diving beetles and flour beetles). Primary conceptual interests include: (1) sperm-female coevolution, (2) the consequences of divergence in interacting sperm and female reproductive tract traits for reproductive isolation and speciation and (3) the interaction between sexual selection, ecology and life history evolution. To address these topics, we explore trait variation within populations, among geographic populations and across species using behavioral, morphological, experimental evolution, quantitative genetic, phylogenetic and molecular approaches.

Website: http://pitnicklab.syr.edu/Pitnick/Home.html


Raina Plowright









We study the dynamics of infectious diseases in reservoir hosts, the process of pathogen spillover, and infectious diseases in species of conservation concern. We work across multiple disciplines including ecology, epidemiology, immunology, microbiology, and mathematical modeling. We work in the field, in the lab and in silico.

Website: http://www.rainaplowright.com


Rebecca Safron








The role of sexual selection in shaping phenotypic variation within and among closely related populations is a central theme in my research program. As an evolutionary ecologist, I am interested in the biological causes and consequences of variation in phenotype using molecular, comparative, and experimental methods. By adopting new comparative approaches (both empirical and synthetic), my current work is focused on determining how trait function affects patterns of gene flow. We are currently establishing new methods to test hypotheses about the relative contributions of geographic distance, history, natural and sexual selection in the evolution of reproductive isolation.

Website: http://safranlab.weebly.com


Robert Sapolsky









Dr. Robert Sapolsky is John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn Professor of Biological Sciences at Stanford University and Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery in Stanford’s School of Medicine. Professor Sapolsky earned his A.B. summa cum laude in Biological Anthropology from Harvard University and his Ph.D. in Neuroendocrinology from The Rockefeller University in New York. He is also a research associate at the Institute of Primate Research operated by the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi. Dr. Sapolsky is a recipient of a MacArthur genius fellowship. His teaching awards include Stanford University’s Bing Award for Teaching Excellence and an award for outstanding teaching from the Associated Students of Stanford University. Professor Sapolsky is the author of several books, including Stress, the Aging Brain and the Mechanisms of Neuron Death (MIT Press, 1992); The Trouble with Testosterone (Macmillan Library Reference, 1997); and Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: A Guide to Stress-Related Diseases and Coping (W.H. Freeman, 1995), which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award. He also regularly contributes to magazines and journals such as Discover, Science, Scientific American, Harper’s, and The New Yorker.

Website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Sapolsky


Peter Wainwright








I am a fish biologist and functional morphologist interested in processes and mechanisms of diversification at many levels. I have a particular fondness for coral reef fish, function and diversity of the fish skull, and I like to take a strongly phylogenetic approach to studying the history of morphological and functional diversification, especially when this can be linked to ecological consequences. My lab group includes a diverse array of talented biologists with specific interests in evolutionary ecology, phylogenetics, biomechanics, and anatomy. Most of our work involves comparisons of species, but we also work at the level of populations.

Website: http://fishlab.ucdavis.edu