Richard Eimer Lenski

Hannah Distinguished Professor, Integrative Biology
Hannah Distinguished Professor, Department of Microbiology, Genetics, & Immunology
Hannah Distinguished Professor, Ecology, Evolution & Behavior Program
Faculty, Genetics & Genome Sciences Program
Hannah Distinguished Professor, BioMolecular Science Gateway
Location: 6177 Biomed Phys Sci
Profile photo of  Richard Eimer Lenski
Photo of: Richard Eimer Lenski


Richard Lenski studies the genetic mechanisms and ecological processes that are responsible for evolution.  Unlike most evolutionary biologists, Prof. Lenski performs experiments to watch evolution in action.  In an experiment that he started in 1988, he and his team have followed 12 populations of bacteria while they evolve in the lab for 75,000 generations, providing insights into the process of adaptation by natural selection, the dynamics of genome evolution, the repeatability of evolution, and the origin of new functions.  Samples from throughout the experiment are stored in a freezer, and the organisms that lived in different generations can be revived and directly compared—in effect, allowing time travel. In addition to his research on bacteria, Prof. Lenski has also studied digital organisms in the form of computer programs that can self-replicate, mutate, compete, and evolve the ability to solve problems.

Prof. Lenski is past President of the Society for the Study of Evolution, and he was a member of the National Research Council committee that reviewed the scientific approaches used in the FBI’s investigation of the 2001 anthrax attacks.  He co-founded the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action, which brings together biologists, computer scientists, engineers, and philosophers to harness and illuminate the power of evolution in action. Prof. Lenski has been awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim and MacArthur Foundations.  He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a fellow of the American Philosophical Society, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Prof. Lenski has published over 250 papers, and he has mentored some 30 graduate students and postdoctoral scientists who are now on the faculties of universities around the nation and the world. 

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  • MMG 499: Undergraduate Research

Selected Publications