School of Humanities and Sciences
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Assistant Professor of Statistics and of Biomedical Data Science
BioDr. Palacios seek to provide statistically rigorous answers to concrete, data driven questions in evolutionary genetics and public health . My research involves probabilistic modeling of evolutionary forces and the development of computationally tractable methods that are applicable to big data problems. Past and current research relies heavily on the theory of stochastic processes, Bayesian nonparametrics and recent developments in machine learning and statistical theory for big data.
Jane and Marshall Steel Jr. Professor in Marine Sciences and Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsWe're interested in ecological, evolutionary, and conservation questions related to marine (and sometimes terrestrial) organisms and ecosystems. We use evolutionary genetics and molecular ecology techniques, and our fieldwork takes us all around the world. Currently, we're studying coral diversity, the adaptive potential of corals in response to climate change, the movement of organisms between marine reserves, genetic changes in abalone in response to environmental.
Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs, Professor of Geological Sciences and, by courtesy, of Biology
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsMy goal in research is to understand the interaction between environmental change and biological evolution using fossils and the sedimentary rock record. How does environmental change influence evolutionary and ecological processes? And conversely, how do evolutionary and ecological changes affect the physical environment? I work primarily on the marine fossil record over the past 550 million years.
Associate Professor of Biology and Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsOur lab studies the ecological processes that structure natural communities and the links between community structure and the cycling of nutrients and energy through ecosystems. We focus primarily on fungi, as these organisms are incredibly diverse and are the primary agents of carbon and nutrient cycling in terrestrial ecosystems. By working across multiple scales we hope to build a 'roots-to-biomes' understanding of plant-microbe symbiosis.
Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsThe development of the basic principles behind the dynamic light scattering (DLS) technique and its application to a wide variety of liquid systems is one of Pecora's outstanding contributions to physical chemistry. DLS is now an indispensable tool in the repertoire of polymer, colloid and biophysical chemists. It is generally accepted to be one of the best methods for measuring the mutual diffusion coefficients and, in dilute systems, the hydrodynamic sizes of polymers and particulates in solution or suspension. It is widely used, among other things, for studying size distributions of polymer and colloid dispersions; for testing theories of polymer dynamics in dilute and concentrated systems; and for studying interactions between macromolecules and colloidal particles in liquid dispersions. The basic work that established the foundation of this technique was done in the 1960s. Pecora has revisited this area over the years-formulating theories, for instance, of scattering from hollow spheres, large cylindrically symmetric molecules and wormlike chains.
An experimental program began in the early seventies resulted in a now classic series of studies on the rotational dynamics of small molecules in liquids. This work, utilizing mainly depolarized DLS and carbon 13 nuclear magnetic relaxation, has had a wide impact in the area of liquid state dynamics.
It was also during this period that the theoretical foundation for the fluorescence correlation spectroscopy technique (FCS) was formulated. Because of recent advances in equipment and materials, this technique has recently been revived and is now a powerful tool in biophysics.
The experimental and theoretical techniques developed for the study of the dynamics of relatively simple small molecule liquids have been used to investigate more complex systems such as the rotation of small molecule solvents in glassy and amorphous polymers. The resonance- enhanced depolarized light scattering technique was also developed in this period.
Extensive studies using depolarized dynamic light scattering (using the Fabry-Perot interferometer) as well as photon correlation spectroscopy, NMR, FCS and small angle X-ray scattering to the dynamics of oligonucleotides have determined the hydrodynamic diameter of DNA and the internal bending angles of the bases. They also provided support for relations relating hydrodynamic parameters to molecular dimensions for short rodlike molecules and “polyelectrolyte effects” on the translational and rotational motions of these highly charged molecules.
A major area of experimental and theoretical study has been the study of the dynamics of rigid and semirigid rodlike polymers in both dilute and semidilute dispersions. The work on translation and rotation of poly (-benzyl-L-glutamate) in semidilute solution is a foremost early work in this area.
The Pecora group has synthesized and studied the dynamics of model
rigid rod/sphere composite liquids. Studies of the translation of dilute spheres through solutions of the rods as functions of the rod and sphere sizes and the rod concentrations have provided the stimulus for more experiment and theoretical work in this area. Transient electric birefringence decay studies of the rotation of dilute rigid rod polymers in suspensions of comparably sized spherical particles have revealed scaling laws for the rod rotation.
A unique feature of part of this work on rigid and semirigid rodlike polymers is the utilization of genetic engineering techniques to construct a monodisperse, homologous series of DNA restriction fragments. These biologically-produced fragments have served as well-characterized model macromolecules for solution studies of the dynamics of semirigid rodlike polymers.
The well-regarded book of Pecora and Berne on dynamic light scattering, first published in 1976, has become a major reference work. It is now a Dover paperback.
Professor of Physics and of Applied Physics
BioHow do things evolve in the universe? How are particles accelerated in the universe?
Professor Petrosian’s research covers many topics in the broad area of theoretical astrophysics and cosmology, with a strong focus on high-energy astrophysical processes.
Cosmological studies deal with global properties of the universe, where the main focus is the understanding of the evolution of the universe at high redshifts, through studies of the evolutions of population of sources such as galaxies and quasars or active galactic nuclei, gamma-ray bursts, using new statistical techniques developed in collaboration with Prof. B. Efron of the Department of Statistics. Another area of research is the use of gravitational lensing in measuring mass in the universe.
High-energy astrophysics research involves interpretation of non-thermal astronomical sources where particles are accelerated to very high energies and emit various kinds of radiation. These processes occur on many scales and in all sorts of objects: in the magnetosphere of planets, in the interplanetary space, during solar and stellar flares, in the accretion disks and jets around stellar-size and super-massive black holes, at centers of galaxies, in gamma-ray bursts, in supernovae, and in the intra-cluster medium of clusters of galaxies. Plasma physics processes common in all these sources for acceleration of particles and their radiative signature is the main focus of the research here.
Michelle and Kevin Douglas Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsEvolution of genomes and population genomics of adaptation and variation