Rees Kassen


Rees Kassen

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Rees Kassen


Faculty of Science
Department of Biology

Research Focus

To understand the evolution of biodiversity or, put another way, to answer the age-old questions, "why are there so many species in the world?" and "is evolution predictable?" Dr. Kassen studies the evolutionary process as it unfolds by using experimentally tractable model systems such as bacteria, algae and fungi. The combination of short generation times and large population sizes make these organisms ideal for studying the evolutionary process in the laboratory. Dr. Kassen aims to develop a general, working theory of adaptation. In doing so, he hopes to create a simple model that might capture most of the evolutionary information needed to predict the first steps of adaptive evolution.

Research Relevance

To fill the gap between theory and experiment related to biological diversity, and in the process making valuable contributions to the fields of molecular genetics, population genetics, ecology and evolution. Dr. Kassen's efforts could provide insight into some of the biggest health conundrums of our time.

A new take on the origin of species

The factors responsible for patterns of diversity in nature have fascinated biologists and philosophers for centuries. Since Darwin's time, evolutionary biology has been heavy on theory about the origin and fate of diversity, and light on experimental evidence to evaluate that theory. By figuring out what makes a species flourish, research could be applied to the emergence of new infectious diseases like SARS and West Nile Virus and the rising incidence of multiple-drug resistant pathogens known as superbugs. The work could also be used to develop strategies for maintaining biodiversity in our natural areas.

Despite being less than a decade into his career, Dr. Rees Kassen has quickly developed an international reputation. To the astonishment of more established colleagues, he has already published an impressive four papers in the field's most prestigious journal, Nature. During his time at the University of Ottawa he has developed a strong independent research program and attracted more than $500,000 in research funding. In the process he has proved his strengths in designing and executing microbial experiments to test theory in ecology and evolution. Dr. Kassen manages to serve on a number of committees both at the university and in the community. His work has also attracted considerable media attention, and has been highlighted in the popular press such as CBC-Radio, the Toronto Star, Danish daily newspapers a podcast for the American Society of Microbiologists.

Featured Awards and Recognition

  • Fellow of the Leopold Leadership Program (2013)
  • Member of the IAP Young Scientists Programme (2011)
  • Member of the Global Young Academy (2010)
  • NSERC E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship (2010)
  • Young Researcher of the Year Award (2008)
  • GSC Michael Smith Promising Young Scientist Award (2006)
  • Early Researcher Award (2005)
  • Elizabeth Wordsworth Research Fellow, St. Hugh's College, Oxford (2003)
  • NSERC Howard Alper Postdoctoral Prize (2002)
  • Governor General's Academic Medal (2001)
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