“I’m not sure we’ve got anybody at the poles at the moment,” says Michael Coates, committee chairman and Professor in Organismal Biology & Anatomy. But doctoral student Nathan Smith has, in fact, excavated dinosaur fossils in Antarctica. “Our students get around,” Coates says.
Evolution transcends national borders, and the Chicago evolution program has achieved striking success by crossing academic boundaries to do creative work. Drawing on the expertise of numerous University departments and even other Chicago-area institutions, the committee has developed a spirit of critical thought and questioning that spurs original research by students and faculty alike.
“What makes the Committee on Evolutionary Biology special is the scientific and administrative cooperation that really makes us greater than the sum of the parts,” says former committee chair David Jablonski, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor in Geophysical Sciences. “There’s nothing quite like it anywhere else.”
A model for interdisciplinary successThe results of that cooperation can be eye-popping. The CEB’s students and faculty have published more than 3,000 papers in peer-reviewed journals just since 1996, including 60 in the highly selective journal Nature.
“That’s more than enough to fill four complete issues with University of Chicago CEB papers,” Coates says.
Founded in 1968 as a grass-roots faculty effort to foster cross-cutting studies of evolution, the CEB is a uniquely University of Chicago species. Much more than a purely administrative body, the CEB is a graduate training program whose 67 faculty members and 32 students share overlapping academic interests, pushing each other to look at evolutionary questions in new ways.
The CEB encompasses specialists in ecology, population genetics, behavior, developmental biology, paleontology, and other fields that reflect the broad relevance of evolutionary biology as a science. The University draws some of its CEB faculty members from Argonne National Laboratory, Brookfield Zoo, Chicago Botanic Garden, the Field Museum, Lincoln Park Zoo, and the Morton Arboretum.
“It’s naturally interdisciplinary and integrative in its approach,” Coates says.
The outcomes of CEB’s distinctive formula speak for themselves. The most recent National Research Council and U.S. News and World Report surveys rank the CEB at the top nationally in evolutionary biology programs. The U.S. Dept of Education recently announced that the CEB earned a Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need grant, which provides three fellowships per year, for three years.
The most recent prominent publication appeared in the August issue of the journal Science, by CEB faculty member Jablonski and CEB alumnus Gene Hunt, PhD’03, now a curator at the Smithsonian Institution, in collaboration with the University of California at San Diego’s Kaustuv Roy. Drawing on 200 million years of marine clam fossils, they showed that vulnerability to extinction runs in some evolutionary families.
Much room for debate
CEB students often leave their mark on campus even before earning their degrees. “I know faculty members who are really excited to have CEB students in their seminars, because they know that they are going to be itching for ‘a fight,’ and there are going to be huge debates,” says Carolyn Johnson, administrative director of CEB’s graduate programs.
The speciation seminar of Jerry Coyne, Professor in Ecology & Evolution and author of Why Evolution is True (2009), has been one venue of intense intellectual conversation in the Chicago tradition. “A lot of CEB students are working with species where even the definition of species is very difficult,” Johnson says. Starting from such basic points, the debates in Coyne’s class are lively and far-reaching.
In addition to Hunt at the Smithsonian, CEB alumni hold positions at Chicago’s Field Museum, U.S. State Department, U.S. National Park Service, and faculty appointments around the world, including Duke University, the University of California-Berkeley, Oxford University in England, the University of Sydney in Australia, and Venezuela’s Simón Bolívar University.
Their work becomes increasingly important as climate change and the extinction of modern species continues apace.“Where are those hotspots of biodiversity where we can most effectively commit our resources, which are going to be limited? How do you make those kinds of policy decisions?” Coates asks. CEB students, trained to analyze an astonishing variety of data, from the molecular scale of genetics to paleontological trends covering thousands or millions of years, can help.
“I can’t think of many other programs where people would get that breadth,” he says.
Related links:Committee on Evolutionary Biology
Steve Koppes | Newswise Science News
Bergamotene - alluring and lethal for Manduca sexta
21.04.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie
How to color a lizard: From biology to mathematics
13.04.2017 | Université de Genève
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
28.04.2017 | Event News
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering
28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences
28.04.2017 | Life Sciences