Research training group "Translational evolutionary research"

The RTG TransEvo is a DFG funded Research Training Group on "Translational Evolutionary Research"

Evolution is the central theory of the life sciences. The core idea of the proposed RTG is to study and promote its key relevance to applied problems of societal concern. Unintended outcomes of human intervention often result from actions that influence natural selection. For example, the usage of antibiotics or anti-cancer drugs in medicine, of pesticides in agriculture, or human perturbation of the earth's ecosystems directly change natural selection and thereby affect the evolution of organisms. Therefore, the development of sustainable solutions to such emerging challenges can only be achieved by explicit consideration of the influenced evolutionary processes. Yet, to date, the translation of evolutionary concepts to applied problems is only rarely attempted. In turn, the required experimental tests in these areas have the potential to further advance evolutionary theory – to the mutual benefit of translational and basic research. Thus, the overarching aim of the proposed RTG TransEvo is to train two main competences among the doctoral candidates: On the one hand, the use of knowledge and concepts from fundamental research in evolutionary biology in order to enhance our understanding of current challenges in applied fields and, on the other hand, the use of the novel insights obtained in order to enrich our understanding of evolution. The RTG TransEvo will promote the translation of evolutionary thinking into three applied fields: (i) medicine, (ii) food production, and (iii) wildlife conservation. Although evolutionary theory is occasionally considered for applied problems, this is usually done independently in the distinct applied fields, often using different approaches and concepts – in spite of similar underlying selection processes. The RTG TransEvo specifically brings together these common concepts, in order to achieve added insights into the applied challenges. The proposed training of doctoral candidates is explicitly interdisciplinary and organized in tandem projects. Each of these consists of two sub-projects that address a related problem, yet use distinct albeit complementary research approaches, directly generating potential for synergistic interactions. The different tandem projects are interconnected at various levels, which will aid the
establishment of a stimulating, interdisciplinary research network for the doctoral candidates. The doctoral training further includes a structured programme with several complementary elements, such as initial rotations, a monthly TransEvo Core Seminar, various science and soft skill courses, yearly retreats and workshops. The RTG TransEvo also provides specific training for young postdocs, directly after their doctorate, representing a career group that is commonly neglected by the available educational programmes. The offered training will help them acquire the necessary leadership and management skills on their path to scientific independence. In consideration of the numerous applied problems with an evolutionary basis, we foresee an increasing need of scientists with an interdisciplinary skill set, capable of translating insights from fundamental research into distinct applied fields. The RTG TransEvo is set up to promote the young scientists with the necessary skills, competence, and experience.

- Description of tandems and doctoral projects -

Tandem 1: Evolutionary management of harvested populations

Doctoral Project 1.1: Fisheries-induced evolution (PI Thorsten Reusch)

Doctoral Project 1.2: Evolutionary fishery economics and management (PI Martin Quaas)

 

Tandem 2: Evolution of sugar beet and its associated pathogens: implications for plant breeding and disease control

Doctoral project 2.1: Genetic analysis of leaf spot resistance (PI Christian Jung)

Doctoral project 2.2: Plant pathogen evolution on cultivated and wild plant hosts (PI Eva Stukenbrock)

 

Tandem 3: Evolution and spread of plasmid-borne antibiotic resistance

Doctoral project 3.1: Plasmid evolution in the food industry (PI Tal Dagan)

Doctoral project 3.2: Mathematical modelling of the evolution and spread of plasmid mediated antibiotic resistance (PI Hildegard Uecker)

 

Tandem 4: The evolution of human pathogens under antibiotic therapy

Doctoral project 4.1: Adaptation of Mtbc to antibiotic treatment (PI Stefan Niemann)

Doctoral project 4.2: Efficacy of sequential therapy against clinical Pseudomonas (PI Hinrich Schulenburg)

 

Tandem 5: Characterizing trade-offs of the human FUT2 gene for the improvement of gut health

Doctoral project 5.1: Relationship between Lactobacillus diversity and host FUT2 genotype (PI Charles Franz)

Doctoral project 5.2: Evaluating the gut microbiome for adaptation to host Fut2 genotype (PI John Baines)

 

Tandem 6: Evolution of key life history events – the sex-specific link between fertility, pregnancy and longevity

Doctoral project 6.1: Late-life fertility and longevity in humans (PI Almut Nebel)

Doctoral project 6.2: Pregnancy/late-life fertility and longevity in sex-role reversed pipefish (PI Olivia Roth)

 

Tandem 7: The evolution of pancreatic cancer cells under chemotherapy

Doctoral project 7.1: Experimental analysis of the evolution of pancreatic cancer cells under chemotherapy (PI Susanne Sebens)

Doctoral project 7.2: Mathematical modelling of the evolution of pancreatic cancer cells under chemotherapy (PI Arne Traulsen)