NRC Research Associateship: mutation and evolution

The US National Research Council (NRC) offers competitive Research Associateships for post-doctoral and senior scientists to conduct research in participating federal labs. The awards include a generous stipend as well as benefits (health insurance, travel, relocation), as explained on the program web site.

To apply, you must write a brief research proposal that reflects a plan of your own, or a plan that we develop together, involving some computational approach to molecular evolution. Especially welcome are proposals for empirical or theoretical work on biases in the introduction of variation as a dispositional factor in evolution, building on work such as Yampolsky and Stoltzfus (2001), Stoltzfus and McCandlish (2017) or Stoltzfus and Norris (2016).

The upcoming deadline for proposals is February 1, 2021 (there is another deadline August 1). If you are interested, contact me with a brief introduction, and we’ll go from there.

Arlin Stoltzfus (

Research Biologist, NIST (Data Scientist, Office of Data & Informatics)
Fellow, IBBR; Adj. Assoc. Prof., UMCP;
IBBR, 9600 Gudelsky Drive, Rockville, MD, 20850


Stoltzfus A, McCandlish DM. 2017. Mutational biases influence parallel adaptation. Mol Biol Evol 34:2163-2172

Stoltzfus A, Norris RW. 2016. On the Causes of Evolutionary Transition:Transversion Bias. Mol Biol Evol 33:595-602.

Yampolsky LY, Stoltzfus A. 2001. Bias in the introduction of variation as an orienting factor in evolution. Evol Dev 3:73-83.

Getting “Lamarckian” right

Lamarck’s theory of evolutionary adaptation invokes the inheritance of adaptive responses that emerge by effort.  Over a century ago, this mechanism was rejected by geneticists familiar with results on mutation and inheritance, e.g., Cuenot (1909) rejects Lamarckian modification on the grounds that hereditary variants emerge suddenly, rather than being brought on gradually by use and disuse.

This topic would deserve no further comment, except that the false idea of a rebirth of a Lamarckian mode of evolutionary change has been stirred up repeatedly by contemporary scientists guided by the false dichotomy of Lamarck vs. Darwin.  


The buffet and the sushi conveyor

The return of mutationism to mainstream evolutionary biology is evident in the way mainstream articles now describe the role of mutation in evolution, in our reliance on mathematical models that evoke a mutationist view, and in evo-devo research programs that focus on identifying causative major-effect mutations.

This shift has happened in a kind of sub-conscious way, without commentary or reflection.  I’ll comment below on the reasons for that.

My main purpose here is to contrast way that the neo-Darwinian and mutationist views refer implicitly to two different regimes of population genetics evoked in two styles of self-service restaurant: the buffet and the sushi conveyor.


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