Vaughn S. Cooper, PhD

  • Professor, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics
  • Director, Center for Evolutionary Biology and Medicine
  • Associate Director, Center for Medicine and the Microbiome
  • Associate Director, Center for Innovative Antimicrobial Therapy
  • Member, Graduate Program in Microbiology and Immunology (PMI)

Education & Training

  • PhD in Zoology/Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Michigan State University, 2000
  • AB magna cum laude, Biology, Amherst College, 1994

Research Interests

The mission of the Cooper laboratory is to translate evolutionary biology to improve human health, empower K-12 education, and reveal the origins of biodiversity. Specifically, we study the evolution, ecology, and genome dynamics of experimental and clinical microbial populations. The following questions motivate our work.

  1. How do microbes adaptively evolve when colonizing eukaryotic hosts or exposed to antimicrobial compounds? Can we predict these dynamics and identify driver mechanisms to guide therapy?
  2. How do bacteria evolve and form communities within biofilms, especially within infections?
  3. How does host immunity influence the evolution of antibiotic resistance?
  4. How does resistance to immunotherapy evolve?
  5. Why do genome regions replicated at different times evolve at different rates?
  6. Evolution is best taught by hands-on experimentation. How do we deliver this on a massive scale?


Santos-Lopez A, Marshall CW, Scribner MR, Snyder D, Cooper VS. 2019. Evolutionary pathways to antibiotic resistance are dependent upon environmental structure and bacterial lifestyle. eLife 8: e47612 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.47612.

Cooper VS, Warren TM, Matela AM, Handwork M, Scarponi S. 2019. EvolvingSTEM: a microbial evolution-in-action curriculum that enhances learning of evolutionary biology and biotechnology. Evolution: Education and Outreach 12: 12.

Dillon MM, Sung W, Lynch M, Cooper VS. 2018. Periodic Variation of Mutation Rates in Bacterial Genomes Associated with Replication Timing. mBio 9: e01371-18.

Silva, IN, Santos PM, Santos MR, Zlosnik JEA, Speert DP, Buskirk SW, Bruger EL, Waters CM, Cooper VS and Moreira LM. 2016. Long-Term Evolution of Burkholderia multivorans During a Chronic Cystic Fibrosis Infection Reveals Shifting Forces of Selection. mSystems. 1: pii: e00029-16.

Traverse CC, Mayo-Smith LM, Poltak SR and Cooper VS. 2013. Tangled bank of experimentally evolved Burkholderia biofilms reflects selection during chronic infections. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 110: E250-E259.

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