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Evolution in Real Time Topic of February Oxford Science Cafe

UM biologist Peter Zee to discuss evolutionary biology and microorganisms

Biology professor Peter Zee examines microbial samples collected on agar plates in his lab in Shoemaker Hall. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss

Biology professor Peter Zee examines microbial samples collected on agar plates in his lab in Shoemaker Hall. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

FEBRUARY 14, 2020 BY EDWIN B. SMITH

How to study evolutionary processes in real time is the topic for a monthly public science forum organized by the University of Mississippi Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The spring semester’s first meeting of the Oxford Science Cafe is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday (Feb. 18) at Uptown Coffee, 265 North Lamar Blvd. Peter Zee, UM assistant professor of biology, will discuss “Evolution in Real Time.” The event is free and open to the public.

“Evolutionary change in populations requires time,” Zee said. “For organisms to change, the forces of evolution must occur over generations and generations. While there has been recent attention to how evolution can occur very rapidly, it is still difficult for biologists to observe these changes as they occur.”

Zee’s 40-minute presentation will discuss using microbial species in the laboratory to study evolutionary processes in real time, measuring changes over years, weeks and days. He will discuss how biologists are exploring the forces of evolution with this powerful experimental approach, including classic examples and contemporary research.

“I think that this subject will be interesting to the public because it will reinforce understanding of the process of evolution, and show a new way of studying it as it happens,” Zee said.

“Understanding the dynamics of how populations rapidly evolve is important to many fields, such as medicine and agriculture. This is particularly important in our world today, where environmental conditions are rapidly changing.”

Zee completed his doctorate at Indiana University. After IU, he briefly studied at ETH Zurich before spending two years on a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University. Zee then split his time between Los Angeles and Davis, California, working as a postdoc at California State University at Northridge and the University of California at Davis.

He joined the Ole Miss faculty in fall 2017.

For more information about Oxford Science Cafe programs, go to https://www.phy.olemiss.edu/oxfordsciencecafe. For more information about the Department of Physics and Astronomy, visit https://www.olemiss.edu/depts/physics_and_astronomy or call 662-915-5311.