Spring 2014

Evolutionary Biology and the Theory of Computing

Jan. 13May 16, 2014

Evolutionary biology is an intellectually rich field that has advanced remarkably through a synergistic interplay between deep understanding of biology and mathematical techniques, especially from probability and statistics. Over the past several decades, the role of computer science in studying biology has grown enormously, and computation has now become an indispensable part of the intellectual mix. Many current problems in evolutionary biology push the limits of computation, and new algorithmic insights are needed to make progress.

The objective of this program was to promote the interaction between theoretical computer scientists and researchers from evolutionary biology, physics, probability, and statistics. The participants of the program collaborated to identify and tackle some of the most important theoretical and computational challenges arising from evolutionary biology. The major themes of the program were sound mathematical modeling, rigorous methods for statistical estimation, and computational scalability.


Yun S. Song (UC Berkeley; chair), Andrew Clark (Cornell University), Rick Durrett (Duke University), Charles H. Langley (UC Davis), Christos Papadimitriou (UC Berkeley), Leslie Valiant (Harvard University)

Long-Term Participants (including Organizers):

David Aldous (UC Berkeley), Nick Barton (IST Austria), Ivona Bezáková (Rochester Institute of Technology), Nayantara Bhatnagar (University of Delaware), Andrew Clark (Cornell University), Graham Coop (UC Davis), Constantinos Daskalakis (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Michael Desai (Harvard University), Rick Durrett (Duke University), Eleazar Eskin (University of California, Los Angeles), Alison Etheridge (University of Oxford), Steven Evans (UC Berkeley), Marc Feldman (Stanford University), Vitaly Feldman (IBM Research), Daniel Fisher (Stanford University), Dan Gusfield (UC Davis), Oskar Hallatschek (UC Berkeley), Eran Halperin (Tel Aviv University), Joachim Hermisson (University of Vienna), John Huelsenbeck (UC Berkeley), Varun Kanade (UC Berkeley), Sampath Kannan (University of Pennsylvania), Joachim Krug (University of Cologne), Charles H. Langley (UC Davis), Adi Livnat (University of Haifa), Gerton Lunter (University of Oxford), Charles Marshall (UC Berkeley), Gil McVean (University of Oxford), Elchanan Mossel (UC Berkeley), Rasmus Nielsen (UC Berkeley), Lior Pachter (UC Berkeley), Christos Papadimitriou (UC Berkeley), Periklis Papakonstantinou (Tsinghua University), Nick Patterson (Broad Institute), Peter Pfaffelhuber (Freiburg University), Lea Popovic (Concordia University), Satish Rao (UC Berkeley), Sebastien Roch (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Eric Siggia (The Rockefeller University), Montgomery Slatkin (UC Berkeley), Yun S. Song (UC Berkeley; chair), Mike Steel (University of Canterbury, New Zealand), Daniel Štefankovič (University of Rochester), Wolfgang Stephan (Ludwig-Maximilian-University Munich), David Tse (UC Berkeley), Gregory Valiant (Stanford University), Leslie Valiant (Harvard University), Paul Valiant (Brown University), Nisheeth Vishnoi (Microsoft Research India)

Research Fellows:

Claudia Bank (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne), Anand Bhaskar (Stanford University), Shishi Luo (UC Berkeley), Iain Mathieson (Harvard University), Sriram Sankararaman (Harvard University), Justin Thaler (Yahoo Labs; Microsoft Research Fellow), Andrew Wan (Tsinghua University; Google Research Fellow), Daniel Weissman (IST Austria), Daniel Živković (Ludwig-Maximilian-University Munich), James Zou (Harvard University)

Visiting Graduate Students and Postdocs:

Jeremy Berg (University of California, Davis), Erick Chastain (Rutgers University), Samira Daruki (University of Utah), Jack Kamm (UC Berkeley), Sara Sheehan (UC Berkeley), Matthias Steinruecken (UC Berkeley), Jonathan Terhorst (UC Berkeley)


Tuesday, Jan. 21Friday, Jan. 24, 2014


Yun S. Song (UC Berkeley)
Tuesday, Feb. 18Friday, Feb. 21, 2014


Andrew Clark (Cornell University), Rasmus Nielsen (UC Berkeley), Yun S. Song (UC Berkeley)
Monday, Mar. 17Friday, Mar. 21, 2014


Nick Barton (IST Austria), Christos Papadimitriou (UC Berkeley), Mike Steel (University of Canterbury, New Zealand), Leslie Valiant (Harvard University)
Monday, Apr. 28Friday, May 2, 2014


Rick Durrett (Duke University), Steven Evans (UC Berkeley)
Monday, Jul. 27Wednesday, Jul. 29, 2015


Anand Bhaskar (Stanford University), Shishi Luo (UC Berkeley), Yun S. Song (UC Berkeley)

Program image by Anand Bhaskar. The image shows several generations of two populations evolving according to the Wright-Fisher model of reproduction, while occasionally exchanging offspring with each other. It was generated as a random sample from this model conditioned on some edges being fixed to form the letters.

Past Internal Program Activities

Tuesday, April 22nd, 10:30 am11:30 am
Tuesday, April 15th, 10:30 am11:30 am
Tuesday, April 1st, 10:30 am11:30 am
Tuesday, March 25th, 10:30 am11:30 am
Tuesday, March 11th, 10:30 am11:30 am
Tuesday, March 4th, 10:30 am11:30 am
Friday, February 28th, 2:00 pm3:00 pm
Tuesday, February 25th, 10:30 am11:30 am
Friday, February 14th, 4:00 pm5:00 pm
Tuesday, February 11th, 10:30 am11:30 am
Thursday, February 6th, 2:00 pm3:00 pm