Vaughn Cooper, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor
  • Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics

Education & Training

  • Ph.D., Zoology/Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Michigan State University, 2000
  • A.B. magna cum laude, Biology, Amherst College, 1994

Research Interest Summary

We study how microbes adaptively evolve when colonizing new hosts; how bacteria form communities within biofilms; and why genome regions replicated at different times evolve at different rates.

Research Categories

Research Interests

To understand how bacteria adapt to new environments and/or cause disease. Biofilm-associated infections are our primary focus. We conduct high-throughput genomic analysis of evolved populations and longitudinal studies of infectious isolates. We also develop genome-based diagnostics for bacterial infections.

To advance understanding of evolutionary dynamics in structured communities, relevant to biofilms, solid tumors, and the origins of multicellularity.

To explore variation in genome evolutionary rates associated with replication timing and the cell cycle to improve genome legibility, understand speciation, and to guide more rational treatment of disease states.

To propagate experimental evolution as a both a) a nuanced screen for gain-of-function mutations and b) a method of active learning by students of all ages 

Representative Publications

Wang Y, Diaz Arenas C, Stoebel DM, Flynn K, Knapp E, Dillon MM, et al. Benefit of transferred mutations is better predicted by the fitness of recipients than by their ecological or genetic relatedness. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016. PubMed PMID: 27091964.

Flynn KM, Dowell G, Johnson TM, Koestler BJ, Waters CM, Cooper VS. The evolution of ecological diversity in biofilms of Pseudomonas aeruginosa by altered cyclic diguanylate signaling. J Bacteriol. 2016. PubMed PMID: 27021563.

Dillon MM, Sung W, Sebra R, Lynch M, Cooper VS. Genome-wide biases in the rate and molecular spectrum of spontaneous mutations in Vibrio cholerae and Vibrio fischeri. Mol Biol Evol. 2016. PubMed PMID: 27744412.

Traverse CC, Mayo-Smith LM, Poltak SR, Cooper VS. Tangled bank of experimentally evolved Burkholderia biofilms reflects selection during chronic infections. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013;110:E250-9. Epub 2012/12/29. doi: 1207025110 [pii]
10.1073/pnas.1207025110. PubMed PMID: 23271804.

Poltak S, Cooper V. Ecological succession in long-term experimentally evolved biofilms produces synergistic communities. The ISME journal. 2011;5:369-78. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2010.136. PubMed PMID: 20811470.

Cooper VS, Lenski RE. The population genetics of ecological specialization in evolving <i>Escherichia coli</i> populations. Nature. 2000;407:736-9. doi: 10.1038/35037572.

Full List of Publications