Molly Rorick

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Hi, I'm Molly. I am excited to be going to the Santa Fe Institute and I can't wait to meet you all this June!

1. What are your main interests?

I am interested in the causes or consequences of evolvability. One of my central working hypotheses is that there is an important functional link between modularity and evolvability. In one research project I am using a simple model of a genetic network in order to tease apart the various features of epistatic architecture that are difficult to measure and manipulate in real biological networks. Specifically, I am addressing whether it is modularity or another feature of epistatic architecture that is responsible for the evolvability of a genetic system. In a second project, in an attempt to understand the highly conserved and multifunctional nature of the homeodomain and test an alternative hypothesis for its origin, Gunter Wagner and I have developed a model of sequence evolution that includes competition between a protein's functional domains for control over residues. This model also revealed two mechanisms that are independently sufficient to explain the emergence of homo-amino-acid repeats. Lastly, I am planning a third research project that will use a comparative bioinformatics approach to determine whether proteins are especially modular and evolvable, and if so, why and how they came to be this way. As part of this project I hope to use knowledge-based potentials to map out protein neutral networks.

2. What sorts of expertise can you bring to the group?

I'm a 3rd year Genetics PhD student and a member of Gunter P. Wagner's Lab, which is a home to both theorists and experimentalists in evolutionary biology. I have my undergraduate training in biology. My education and research interests have, from the beginning, straddled both “sides” of biology. I believe that a rigorous molecular developmental perspective is necessary when approaching any evolutionary question, and that it is best to address every mechanistic question from the firm foundation of sound evolutionary theory. Thus, my contribution to the summer school will most likely be my uniquely broad background in biology.

3. What do you hope to get out of the CSSS?

I made a transition from the lab bench to the computer only when I entered graduate school, so I look forward to learning lots this summer from the folks with CS backgrounds. More importantly, however, I look forward to meeting everyone from all these diverse fields, learning about the ways other fields approach complex systems, and getting unique perspectives from others on how they might think about the kind of biological systems I deal with everyday.

other interests:

Besides evolutionary biology, I am interested in eating locally and organically, painting and drawing, the great outdoors, hot yoga, good beer, good TV shows like Arrested Development and The Wire, my dog (a chocolate Labrador), and recently, bird watching.