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Prof Andrew Pomiankowski

Prof Andrew Pomiankowski

Professor of Genetics

Genetics, Evolution & Environment

Div of Biosciences

Joined UCL
1st Oct 1999

Research summary

My research addresses questions around the origin of sexual reproduction and its consequences for eukaryotic evolution.

I use theoretical and experimental approaches to study the evolution of female mate preferences for exaggerated male sexual traits used in courtship display. The work is motivated by theory on the handicap principle (female choice of mates with higher phenotypic or genotypic quality) and Fisher’s runaway process (female choice for attractive mates). These ideas are being tested with stalk-eyed flies, and this experimental work is in turn inspiring new theory about the signaling value of sexual traits, sperm competition and fertility, male choice of mating partners, female preference and meiotic drive.

Another branch of work is mainly theoretical and considers how sexual reproduction has arisen and influenced eukaryote evolution. There are many different elements to this work including investigating sex determination and the evolution of gene networks, dosage compensation and sexually antagonistic alleles, genomic imprinting of sex chromosomes, mate choice in micro organisms, the contribution of intra-genomic conflicts, the evolution of binary mating types and true sexes, as well as the evolution of the germ line and early membranes.

Teaching summary

BIOL0020 Sex, Genes and Evolution is a third year course that covers modern aspects of evolutionary genetics (a) the evolution of sex and its consequences, (b) evolutionary conflicts between individuals and genes within individuals, and (c) origins of eukaryotic complexity. 

Each year students (Undergraduate, Masters and summer interns) carry out experimental research projects using stalk-eyed flies to study sexual selection and meiotic drive, and a range of theoretical questions in evolutionary genetics.

Education

University of Sussex
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 1987
University of Oxford
Other higher degree, Master of Arts | 1985
University of Oxford
First Degree, Bachelor of Arts | 1981

Biography

I studied for a PhD at the University of Sussex with Prof John Maynard Smith (1983-87) after spending a year in the laboratory of Prof Dick Lewontin at Harvard University on a Kennedy Fellowship. After my PhD, I held a variety of post-doctoral Fellowships in the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford (SERC Research Fellowship, Junior/Senior Research Fellowship, Keble College and Royal Society University Research Fellow) between 1987-91, working in the group of Prof Bill Hamilton.

In 1991, I moved my Royal Society University Research Fellowship to UCL, first in the Department of Genetics which became the Department of Biology and then the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment. I become Reader (1996), Professor (2001) and then Head of Department (2010). The department has grown strongly during my tenure with a range of new appointments, with refurbished buildings housing new laboratories and office space. The Department has four major research themes organised into centres: CBER (Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research), CLOE (Centre for Life's Origins and Evolution), IHA (Institute of Healthy Ageing), UGI (UCL Genetics Institute), see
https://www.ucl.ac.uk/biosciences/departments/genetics-evolution-and-environment

From 2005-10, I was the Director of CoMPLEX (Centre for Mathematics and Physics in the Life Sciences and Experimental Biology) where we ran a highly successful interdisciplinary centre, applying cutting edge techniques in mathematics, physics, engineering and computer sciences to problems in life sciences and biomedicine.

Publications