UCL Division of Biosciences

Prof Andrew Pomiankowski

Prof Andrew Pomiankowski

Director of Division of Biosciences / Professor of Genetics

Genetics, Evolution & Environment

Div of Biosciences

Joined UCL
1st Oct 1999

Research summary

My work is centred around the evolution of sex and its consequences. I consider the origin of sexual reproduction, how it permitted or emerged in the eukaryotic cell from prokaryotic genetic exchange, and how the proto-mitochondrion developed mechanisms to maintain adaptation. Many other consequences followed, including changes in sex determining mechanism, the evolution of gene networks, dosage compensation and sexually antagonistic alleles, genomic imprinting, mate choice in micro-organisms, the evolution of mating types, true sexes and the germ line, the origin of protocells before RNA and early membranes. I have a long-term interest in intra-genomic conflicts, in particular meiotic drive and co-evolution with the host genome.

My early work was using 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 signalling value of sexual traits, sperm competition and fertility, male choice of mating partners. 

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.


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


My undergraduate degree was in Zoology at the University of Oxford (First Class Honours, Gibbs Prize), I was a Scholar of New College where Richard Dawkins was the Tutor. 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 grew 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 


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.

I am now Director of the Division of Biosciences, the largest Division in UCL. It encompasses four large Departments which cover the range of biology from molecules to ecosystems: Cell and Developmental Biology (CDB), Genetics, Evolution and Environment (GEE), Neurosciences, Physiology and Pharmacology (NPP) and Structural and Molecular Biology (SMB).