Associate Professor of Organismic & Evolutionary Biology
Office: Northwest Labs, Rm 435.20, 52 Oxford St. Cambridge, MA 02138
Lab Website: http://www.oeb.harvard.edu/faculty/desai
Natural selection and other evolutionary forces leave characteristic signatures in the genetic variation within populations. My group uses a combination of theoretical and experimental approaches to study how this genetic variation is created and maintained, and to develop methods to infer the evolutionary history of populations from the variation observed in sequence data. Our focus is primarily on natural selection in asexual populations such as microbes and viruses. We are developing new approaches to population genetic theory to better understand the structure of genetic variation in these populations. We complement this with high-throughput experimental evolution in budding yeast, evolving thousands of lines simultaneously to explore the distributions of phenotypic changes and their correlations with the evolution of genetic variation within and between populations.
D. W. Weissman, M. M. Desai, D. S. Fisher, and M. W. Feldman. The Rate at Which Asexual Populations Cross Fitness Valleys. Theoretical Population Biology. 75:286-300 (2009).
M. M. Desai and J. B. Plotkin. Finite Site Effects on the Polymorphism Frequency Spectrum Under Directional Selection. Genetics 180:2175-91 (2008).
M. M. Desai and D. S. Fisher. Beneficial Mutation-Selection Balance and the Effect of Linkage on Positive Selection. Genetics 176:1759-98 (2007).
M. M. Desai, D. S. Fisher, and A. W. Murray. The Speed of Evolution and Maintenance of Variation in Asexual Populations. Current Biology 17:385-94 (2007).