Philipp Messer studied Physics, Human Physiology, and Computational Biology at the University of Cologne and the Max-Planck-Institute for Molecular Genetics. He received his PhD, Summa Cum Laude from the Department of Mathematics at the Free University of Berlin. After spending several years as a Human Frontiers Science Program (HFSP) postdoctoral fellow in Dmitri Petrov’s lab at Stanford, he joined the Department of Biological Statistics and Computational Biology at Cornell as a tenure-track Assistant Professor.
Philipp is interested in a broad range of questions in evolutionary biology and population genetics. A particular focus of his lab lies in studying cases of rapid adaptation that provide the opportunity to observe evolution in real-time and repeatedly. Examples of such rapid adaptations include the evolution of drug resistance in pathogens, such as Malaria and HIV, and the emergence of pesticide resistance in insects.
Despite the fact that adaptation is the central process in evolution, we still know surprisingly little about its population genetics. Does adaptation typically involve a few or many molecular variants? Are such variants already present in the population or do they arise by de novo mutation? What is the typical strength of natural selection that drives adaptation, and how quickly can adaptation occur?
Research in the Messer lab addresses these questions through the development of novel approaches to learn about the process of adaptation and ultimately turn its study into a quantitative and predictive science. Projects in the lab employ a wide range of computational and analytical approaches in combination with the analysis of population genomic, ecological, and clinical data. The lab also collaborates closely with experimental groups to uncover the molecular basis of adaptation.