Biodesign researcher Michael Lynch wins coveted lifetime achievement award in genetics

January 27, 2022

Michael Lynchdirector of the Biodesign Center for the Mechanisms of Evolution at Arizona State University, is the 2022 Genetics Society of America Fellow Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal for his profound and influential contributions to science.

The award, one of the most prestigious in the field of genetics, is awarded in honor of an individual member’s outstanding achievement as well as a history of dedicated mentorship to other geneticists.

Michael Lynch, director of the Biodesign Center for Mechanisms of Evolution at Arizona State University, is the recipient of the 2022 Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal from the Genetics Society of America for his profound and influential contributions to science.
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The Genetics Society of America is an international community of more than 5,000 scientists dedicated to advancing the field of genetics. The Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal was created in 1981 and named in honor of the eminent geneticist Thomas Hunt Morgan (1866-1945). Morgan’s genetic work on DrosophilaDrosophila is a genus of flies, belonging to the family Drosophilidae, whose members are often called “small fruit flies”. Source: Wikipedia won him the Nobel Prize in 1933 for his discoveries revealing the secrets of heredity, marking the first experimental verification that chromosomes are the carriers of genetic information.

“Given the many luminaries who have received this award in the past, few in the fields of evolutionary genetics, it was a tremendous surprise and honour, and also a testament to how population and quantitative genetics are viewed by the wider community,” Lynch said. .

Lynch has followed Morgan’s tradition of thorough investigation over a long and diverse career. His current research focuses on exploring the mechanisms underlying evolution at the gene, genomic, cellular, and phenotypic levels. In over 250 research publications, he has deepened the field’s understanding of the role of mutation, random genetic drift, and recombination.

More than 160 years after Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species”, the field of the study of evolution remains not only the cornerstone of biology, but one of the most active areas of research in science. of life. One of Lynch’s main goals is to integrate evolutionary theory with cell biology, using the principles of population genetics and biophysics.

As Lynch explains in a document published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “Natural selection is only one of many evolutionary mechanisms, and failure to realize it is probably the most significant obstacle to successful integration of the theory of evolution with molecular, cellular and developmental biology”..

Lynch was a major force in developing neutral theories in which different population sizes of different lineages influence mutation rates and guide how genome architectures are ultimately structured. Such research has helped expand the discipline beyond the purely adaptive explanations of genes and evolution that have dominated the field since Charles Darwin.

Portrait of ASU Professor Michael Lynch.

Michael Lynch is director of the Biodesign Center for Mechanisms of Evolution and a professor in the School of Life Sciences at ASU. He is the Principal Investigator of the new NSF-funded Integrating Biology Institute for Mechanisms of Cellular Evolution.

To advance these investigations, he recently formed the Institute of Biological Integration on the Mechanisms of Cellular Evolutionfocusing on the emerging field of evolutionary cell biology and supported by the National Science Foundation.

His quantitative and theoretical knowledge of the mechanisms of evolution is informed by laboratory research on a range of organisms, including the microcrustacean Daphnia, the ciliated paramecium, and many diverse microbial species.

The integration of evolution and cell biology is one of the last unexplored research grounds in evolution. In addition to addressing fundamental questions of evolutionary theory and exploring the intricacies of cellular structure and function, the research has many practical applications. These include investigations into the emergence of antibiotic resistance, the explosive growth of destructive microbial populations such as blue-green algal blooms, the responses of organisms to climate change, and the development of new methods of biomass production.

“I was delighted, but not surprised, to hear Professor Lynch receive this prestigious award. He is a prolific scientist who has been a pioneer in the field for decades,” said Joshua LaBaer, ​​executive director of the ASU Biodesign Institute. “In addition, his leadership of the new Institute for Biological Integration will place the ASU Biodesign Institute at the forefront of research in the new and largely unexplored field of evolutionary cell biology.”

Lynch is a Fellow of the US National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was also president of the Genetics Society of America; the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution; the Society for the Study of Evolution; and the American Genetics Association. Previously, he held faculty positions at the University of Illinois, University of Oregon, and Indiana University.

The Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal is just the latest in a string of prestigious awards won by Lynch, which includes the Lifetime Contribution Award from the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolutionawarded in 2021.

Lynch is the author of several highly influential books, including two with Bruce Walsh focusing on quantitative genetics: “Genetics and Analysis of Quantitative Traits”, 1998, and “Selection and Evolution of Quantitative Traits”, 2018. In 2007, “The Origins of Genome Architecture” appeared, a book that the journal Nature called “… the best, most up-to-date, and comprehensive summary of genome evolution published.

His most recent book, “The Origins of Cellular Architecture”, is available in its entirety in line.

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