The Role of Stochasticity in the Evolution of Multicellularity

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Applied Maths and Theoretical Physics


One of the most fundamental issues in evolutionary biology, and more recently in biological physics, is the nature of transitions from unicellular organisms to multicellular ones. Many questions arise about the fitness advantages of increase in size and cell number, as well as cellular specialization, and these are often addressable from physical points of view. Of particular interest is the fidelity with which uni- and multicellular organisms sense and respond to environmental signals such as chemical concentrations and light intensity. This thesis project will investigate theoretically and possibly experimentally how the processes inherent in multicellular organisms deal with the intrinsic stochasticity in the world around them.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509620/1 30/09/2016 29/09/2022
1781742 Studentship EP/N509620/1 30/09/2016 29/09/2019 Anne Herrmann
Description In the project so far we have focussed on a particular process, called interkinetic nuclear migration (IKNM), taking place during the development of neural tissues. In the zebrafish retina we could show that IKNM can be modelled as a stochastic process when taking into account the geometric constraints arising from tissue architecture.
Exploitation Route IKNM has been suggested to play a regulatory role during eye development, thus we expect that our findings will have important implications for elucidating this process further.
Sectors Other

Description Helen Stone Scholarship
Amount £42,000 (GBP)
Organisation Cambridge Commonwealth Trust 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2016 
End 09/2019
Description IKNM project 
Organisation University of Cambridge
Department Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution In this project, I contributed to the data analysis and developed the theoretical model.
Collaborator Contribution My collaborators performed the experimental work and part of the data analysis.
Impact 10.1101/570606
Start Year 2017