Michael Desai

Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and of Physics

Harvard University
NorthWest Building, 435.20
52 Oxford Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Tel: 617-496-3613
Email: mdesai@oeb.harvard.edu


Lab Size: Between 5 and 10


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


Lang, G. I., D. P. Rice, M. J. Hickman, E. Sodergren, G. M. Weinstock, D. Botstein, and M. M. Desai. Pervasive Genetic Hitchhiking and Clonal Interference in 40 Evolving Yeast Populations. Nature, in press (2013).

Van Dyken, J. D., M. J. I. Muller, K. M. L. Mack, and M. M. Desai.  Spatial Population Expansion Promotes the Evolution of Cooperation in an Experimental Prisoner's Dilemma. Current Biology 23:919-923 (2013).

Nicolaisen, L. E. and M. M. Desai.  Distortions in Genealogies Due to Purifying Selection. Molecular Biology and Evolution 29:3589-3600 (2012).

Goyal, S., D. J. Balick, E. R. Jerison, R. A. Neher, B. I. Shraiman, and M. M. Desai.  Dynamic Mutation-Selection Balance as an Evolutionary Attractor. Genetics 191:1309-1319 (2012).

Good, B. H., I. M. Rouzine, D. J. Balick, O. Hallatschek, and M. M. Desai.  Distribution of fixed beneficial mutations and the rate of adaptation in asexual populations. PNAS 109:4950-4955 (2012).