Graduate student position in the Nedelcu lab

If you’re a fan of Volvox and the volvocine algae and have recently received an undergraduate degree in biology or a related field, now’s your chance to get serious about studying them. Aurora Nedelcu is looking for a graduate student to join her lab at the University of New Brunswick. Professor Nedelcu is a major player in the Volvox community, having published foundational papers on diverse aspects of volvocine biology and organized the first two international Volvox meetings. This is a great opportunity to join a vibrant and growing research community:

A graduate student position is available in the laboratory of Aurora Nedelcu, in the Department of Biology at the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, CANADA. Research in our laboratory is directed towards understanding general, fundamental issues in evolution – such as the evolution of multicellularity, development, cell differentiation, sex, programmed cell death, altruism.  Our research is rooted in the framework of transitions in individuality and evolution of complexity (at a conceptual level), and of cellular responses to stress (at a more mechanistic level).  The experimental model-system we are currently using is the green algal group, Volvocales (see our Volvocales Information Project; Highly motivated students with interests in either theoretical/genomics or experimental/molecular approaches, and previous research experience are encouraged to apply. Interested applicants should e-mail a CV, summary of research experience and interests, unofficial transcripts, and contact information for three referees to

Applicants should meet the minimum requirements for acceptance in the Biology Department Graduate Program (see

Chance favors the minute animalcule: John Tyler Bonner on randomness


A colleague recently (well, not that recently; sorry, Art) lent me a copy of John Tyler Bonner’s latest bookRandomness in Evolution. Dr. Bonner is emeritus faculty at Princeton University, where he has been since 1947, shortly after World War II interrupted his Ph.D. studies. Among many other contributions, Bonner was a pioneer in the development of the social amoeba (or cellular slime mold) Dictyostelium discoideum as a model system for multicellular development and cell-cell signaling. A member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, he has published over twenty books and mountains of peer-reviewed papers.

As much as David Kirk’s Volvox, Bonner’s books The Evolution of Complexity and First Signals: The Evolution of Multicellular Development influenced my decision to study Volvox in grad school. I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Bonner in 2009 when, as a graduate student, I invited him to give a departmental seminar at the University of Arizona. It really was a pleasure; this is someone who thinks deeply about big questions and has made important contributions to understanding many of the answers.

The central argument of the new book is that randomness plays a larger role, relative to natural selection, in the morphology of small organisms than that of large ones. Typically of Bonner’s work, the book is coherent, readable, and full of fascinating examples. Although the cellular slime molds are his primary study organism, Bonner has long had an interest in, and interesting things to say about, Volvox, so I was excited to read his most recent thoughts.

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Pointing out a lie makes me a “fascist apologist”

Over at Discover Institute blog Uncommon Descent, I pointed out that the central claim of Barry Arrington’s post “Further to ‘When You Scratch a Progressive, You Will Find a Fascist Underneath’” is a lie. In response, Arrington calls me and several other commenters “fascist apologists.”

In the original article, Arrington takes issue with the proposals advanced by the Democratic Platform Drafting Committee:

The Democrats’ platform committee says they have a “Final Draft To Advance Progressive Democratic Values.”

Among those progressive values, criminalizing scientific dissent. A plank calling for criminal prosecution of anyone who dissent’s from “the scientific reality of climate change” was adopted with unanimous consent. Progressives do not tolerate dissent even from calling for the persecution of dissenters. [emphasis in the original]

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Why I’ve been so quiet

Teaching my mom a roll cast, Lower Cold Lake, Montana. Photo by Aeravi.

Teaching my mom a roll cast when I should be blogging. Lower Cold Lake, Montana. Photo by Aeravi.

I’m falling way behind on my goal to post three times a week. It’s not because there isn’t cool science to talk about, and it’s not because the Discovery Institute isn’t still wrong. I’m preparing to move the lab to Atlanta near the end of July, and I have family in town, so most of my free time is filled up. There are weddings, floats, fishing, hiking, backpacking, and lots of eating out (don’t cry for me).

I will be going to several meetings this Fall, and the pace of posts will likely pick back up then:

August 4-7: 2nd ASM Conference on Experimental Microbial Evolution in Washington, DC.

August 21-25: CAN-7 team meeting in Missoula, MT.

September 12-15: NASA Executive Council Meeting in Missoula, MT.

September 29-30: Phycomorph in Limassol, Cyprus.