Santa Fe Institute

Eric Libby

Omidyar Postdoctoral Fellow

Bio

All multicellular organisms have unicellular ancestors somewhere in their evolutionary past. Yet it is unknown how single-celled creatures evolve into a community of cells with a collective individuality. To answer this puzzle, Eric turns his attention to the microbial world and the phenotypic acrobatics of bacteria, slime molds, and fungi. Single mutations can allow these beautiful organisms to rapidly switch between forms. Eric combines mathematical approaches with experimental observations of these organisms to find the evolutionary conditions that can lead single cells to form groups capable of reproduction, i.e. primitive multicellular organisms. Understanding the origins of multicellularity is not simply a dig into the past but also an exploration into what types of collective entities can be formed from individuals. In this way, research into the origins of multicellularity is intimately connected with research into cooperation, self-organization, the human microbiome, tissue construction, and the stability of communities and ecosystems.

Eric completed a postdoctoral fellowship in mathematical microbial evolution at the New Zealand Institute for Advanced Study. Before that he earned a Ph.D. in quantitative physiology from McGill University and a B.A. in computational and applied mathematics from Rice University.

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