UI Faculty to Study Evolution in Action with New Funding from National Center

Thursday, June 12 2014

MOSCOW, Idaho – June 12, 2014 – The National Science Foundation’s BEACON Center for Evolution in Action has awarded University of Idaho faculty members in the Institute for Bioinformatics and Evolutionary Studies, or IBEST, $570,000 in new competitive grants to support new and ongoing research projects.
These funds support 10 projects comprising 12 UI faculty members, three graduate students, four undergraduate students and five postdoctoral researchers. The projects relate to evolution in a variety of ways, including developing a better model for tracking the evolution of viruses, creating methods that allow people to train robots by demonstrating tasks, and studying the evolution of animal joint control from a variety of perspectives.
UI is a partner in the BEACON consortium, which also includes Michigan State University, North Carolina A&T State University, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Washington. UI has been awarded approximately $2.8 million through BEACON over the past five years.
“This award continues an extraordinary collaboration of two leading national research groups – the BEACON Science and Technology Center and IBEST at the University of Idaho – recognizing our leadership in finding ways to improve human wellbeing by understanding and using evolution,” said James A. Foster, a professor of biological sciences and director of the UI BEACON program.
Faculty members receiving BEACON funding are Foster, Peter Fuerst, Craig McGowan, Travis Hagey, Chris Marx, Tanya Miura, Scott Nuismer, Barrie Robison, Deb Stenkamp and Holly Wichman in the UI Department of Biological Sciences, and Robert Heckendorn and Terence Soule in the UI Department of Computer Science.
These researchers also fall under the umbrella of IBEST, an interdisciplinary research group focused on understanding the patterns and processes of evolution that occur over comparatively short periods of time. IBEST places a high value on interdisciplinary collaborations that blend the expertise of biologists, biochemists, ecologists, evolutionary biologists, mathematicians, statisticians, and computer scientists to examine the underpinnings of systems that evolve.
BEACON is an NSF Science and Technology Center founded with the mission of illuminating and harnessing the power of evolution in action to advance science and technology and benefit society. Research in BEACON focuses on biological evolution, digital evolution, and evolutionary applications in engineering, uniting biologists who study natural evolutionary processes with computer scientists and engineers who are harnessing these processes to solve real-world problems.

James A. Foster
UI BEACON director

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