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Chris Marx

Christopher Marx



Gibb Hall 134



Mailing Address

Dept. of Biological Sciences
University of Idaho
875 Perimeter MS 3051
Moscow, Idaho 83844-3051

Research: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Biochemistry

  • Ph.D. Microbiology, University of Washington, 2003
  • B.S. Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1997
  • B.S. Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1997

My research interests are at the intersection of microbial physiology and evolution, and span from experimental and computational approaches. On one hand, we use experimental evolution as a tool to uncover novel genes and functions. On the other, we apply systems-level models of metabolism to try to predict genetic interactions, optimal phenotypes, and evolutionary outcomes of evolving populations.

Chris Marx starts as an Associate Professor in Biological Sciences in January of 2014. After double majoring in Biology and Environmental Engineering at MIT and doing undergraduate research with Penny Chisholm, he earned his doctorate in Microbiology at the University of Washington with Mary Lidstrom. His thesis work explored the physiological challenges of the unusual methanol-utilizing metabolism of Methylobacterium. After becoming interested in evolutionary questions, he chose to pursue his NSF Microbial Biology Postdoctoral Fellowship at Michigan State University with Rich Lenski. Chris started his own group at Harvard University in 2005 in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. Although the systems are varied, the major theme of the lab's work has been to forge connections between underlying physiology and evolutionary and ecological outcomes, using mathematical models to generate quantitative, testable predictions.

  • Leiby, N., and C. J. Marx. Metabolic erosion primarily through mutation accumulation, and not tradeoffs, drives limited evolution of substrate specificity in Escherichia coli. PLoS Biology. In press.
  • Carroll, S. M., K. S. Xue, and C. J. Marx. Laboratory divergence of Methylobacterium extorquens AM1 through unintended domestication and past selection for antibiotic resistance. BMC Microbiology. In press.
  • *Carroll, S. M., *M.-C. Lee, and C. J. Marx. Sign epistasis limits evolutionary trade-offs at the confluence of single- and multi-carbon metabolism in Methylobacterium extorquens AM1. Evolution. In press.
  • Harcombe, W. R., N. F. Delaney, N. Leiby, N. Klitgord, and C. J. Marx. (2013) The ability of flux balance analysis to predict evolution of central metabolism scales with the initial distance to the optimum. PLoS Computational Biology. 9:e1003091.
  • Chubiz, L. M., J. Purswani, S. M. Carroll, and C. J. Marx. (2013) A novel pair of inducible expression vectors for use in Methylobacterium extorquens. BMC Research Notes. 6:183.
  • Delaney, N. F., M. E. Kaczmarek, L. M. Ward, P. K. Swanson, M.-C. Lee, and C. J. Marx. (2013) Development of an optimized medium, strain and high-throughput culturing methods for Methylobacterium extorquens. PLoS One. 8:e62957.
  • Carroll, S. M. and C. J. Marx. (2013) Evolution after introduction of a novel metabolic pathway consistently leads to restoration of wild-type physiology. PLoS Genetics. 9:e1003427.
  • Lee, M.-C. and C. J. Marx. (2013) Synchronous waves of failed soft sweeps in the laboratory: remarkably rampant clonal interference of alleles at a single locus. Genetics. 193:943-952.
  • Marx, C. J. (2013) Can you sequence ecology? Metagenomics of adaptive diversification. PLoS Biology. 11:e1001487.
  • Xi. Z., Y. Wang, R. K. Bradley, M. Sugumaran, C. J. Marx, J. S. Rest, and C. C. Davis. (2013) Massive mitochondrial gene transfer in a parasitic flowering plant clade. PLoS Genetics. 9:1003265.
  • Agashe, D., N. C. Martinez-Gomez, D. A. Drummond, and C. J. Marx. (2013) Good codons, bad transcript: large reductions in gene expression and fitness arising from synonymous variants in a key enzyme. Molecular Biology and Evolution. 30:549-560.
  • *Delaney, N. F., *J. I. Rojas Echenique, and C. J. Marx. (2013) Clarity: An open source manager for laboratory automation. Journal of Laboratory Automation. 18:171-177.
  • *Chubiz, L. M., *M.-C. Lee, N. F. Delaney, and C. J. Marx. (2012) FREQ-Seq: A rapid, cost-effective, sequencing-based method to determine allele frequencies directly from mixed populations. PLoS One. 7:e47959.
  • Leiby, N., W. R. Harcombe, and C. J. Marx. (2012) Multiple long-term, experimentally-evolved populations of Escherichia coli acquire dependence upon citrate as an iron chelator for optimal growth on glucose. BMC Evolutionary Biology. 12:151.
  • *Robinson, D. G., *M.-C. Lee, and C. J. Marx. (2012) OASIS: an automated program for global investigation of bacterial and archaeal insertion sequences. Nucleic Acids Research. 40:e174.
  • Chiu, H.-C., C. J. Marx, and D. Segrè. (2012) Epistasis from functional dependence of fitness on underlying traits. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 279:4156-4164.
  • Marx, C. J., F. Bringel, L. Chistoserdova, L. Moulin, M. F. Ul Haque, D. E. Fleischman, C. Gruffaz, P. Jourand, C. Kneif, M.-C. Lee, E. E. L. Muller, T. Nadalig, R. Peyraud, S. Roselli, L. Russ, L. A Goodwin, N. Ivanova, N. Kyrpides, A. Lajus, M. L. Land, C. Médigue, N. Mikhailova, M. Nolan, T. Woyke, S. Stolyar, J. A. Vorholt, and S. Vuilleumier. (2012) Complete genome sequences of six strains of the genus Methylobacterium. Journal of Bacteriology. 194:4746-4748.
  • Marx, C. J. (2012) Recovering from a bad start: rapid adaptation and tradeoffs to growth below a threshold density. BMC Evolutionary Biology. 12:109.
  • Lee, M.-C. and C. J. Marx. (2012) Repeated, selection-driven genome reduction of accessory genes in experimental populations. PLoS Genetics. 8:e1002651.
  • Delaney, N.F., S. Balenger, C. Bonneaud, C. J. Marx, G. E. Hill, N. Ferguson-Noel, P. Tsai, A. Rodrigo, and S. V. Edwards. (2012) Ultrafast genome evolution and loss of CRISPRs following host shift in a novel wildlife pathogen, Mycoplasma gallisepticum. PLoS Genetics. 8:e1002511.
  • Chou, H.-H. and C. J. Marx. (2012) Optimization of gene expression through divergent mutational paths. Cell Reports. 1:133-140.
  • Marx, C. J. (2011) Regulatory revolution: evolving the “anti-LacI” repressor. Cell. 146:350-352.
  • Chou, H.-H., H.-C. Chiu, N. F. Delaney, D. Segrè, and C. J. Marx. (2011) Diminishing returns epistasis among beneficial mutations decelerates adaptation. Science. 332:1190-1192.

  • 2013-2015 American Society for Microbiology Distinguished Lecturer
  • 2013 Nominee for Star Family Prize for Excellence in Advising, Harvard University
  • 2009 National Science Foundation CAREER Award
  • 2008 Evolution in Medicine Lecturer, National Institutes of Health
  • 2008 Nominee for Joseph R. Levenson Memorial Teaching Prize, Harvard University
  • 2003-2005 National Science Foundation Microbial Biology Postdoctoral Fellowship


Department of Biological Sciences

Physical Address:
Life Sciences South 252

Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Drive MS 3051
Moscow, ID 83844-3051

Phone: 208-885-6280

Fax: 208-885-7905


Web: Department of Biological Sciences