First, a little about Josh’s unusual background. Since early grade school, Josh has always had a strong interest in the sciences. Inspired by Bill Nye and excellent science teachers, he began to take classes meant for older students. As a high school sophomore, he began taking college courses at his local community college in chemistry and biology. With early aspirations about medicine and biology in general, he was able to graduate from high school at the age of 16 and enrolled at the University of Washington. Josh’s course work emphasised biochemistry and molecular biology, and in the span of only a year, he graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Biology. Upon concluding his undergraduate career, he began work as a technician in Ben Kerr‘s lab. A year later he entered UW’s graduate program (with Ben as his advisor). During his years at UW, Josh has worked with viral, bacterial and digital model systems in evolutionary biology.
His future work will involve the exploration of how and why organisms are evolvable. As BEACON is devoted to understanding and harnessing the force of evolution, comprehending the factors that determine evolutionary potential is crucial. By combining the merits of digital and microbial systems, he seeks to understand how contingency loci (regions of the genome with an increased mutation rate) may allow organisms to more rapidly adapt to new and/or changing environments. Contingency loci are often associated with genes involved in pathogenicity and virulence in microbes, as well as neurological disorders in humans. As such, understanding their putative role in enabling more rapid adaptation would yield a more accurate understanding of the nature of mutations with possible implications for medicine. Should contingency loci and other forms of biased mutation rates prove beneficial to evolution, they may also offer another avenue to improve the performance of optimizing applied evolutionary algorithms.
Josh will begin the postdoctoral fellowship at the end of 2012, with the first six months at UW (with Charles Ofria who will be on sabbatical). Afterwards, he will continue his fellowship at Michigan State University.
Josh Nahum has been an active member in BEACON so far, and we expect great things from him as a BEACON Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellow!