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Horizontal gene transfer and microbial evolution

Microbes are able to pass genes to one another in a mode of evolution called horizontal gene transfer. This can enable rapid adaptation when traits like resistance to antibiotics or the ability to use unusual food sources spread to new species. I'm interested in using experimental evolution and genomics to explore the often profound consequences of gene transfer for microbial genomes and ecology. 

Plasmid evolution and ecology

Conjugative plasmids are semi-autonomous bits of DNA that can transfer between bacteria and facilitate horizontal gene transfer. But plasmids are also entities evolving in their own right. How do plasmids persist? Do plasmids and their hosts co-evolve? What are the consequences for gene transfer?

Parasites! Comic (2010)

Talking about science with a broader audience

I like talking about science and am regularly involved in formal and informal science communication activities. I've produced several science comics. Once I made a giant trypanosome for a Mardi Gras parade

African trypanosome antigenic variation

African trypanosomes undergo rapid within-host evolution of their surface coat to escape their hosts' adaptive immune systems. This amazing survival strategy was the subject of my PhD at the University of Glasgow, and I have a long-standing interest in how trypanosomes deploy a diversity phenotype to such great effect.

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My most up-to-date list of papers can be found here, or on my Google Scholar profile.