Yaniv Brandvain was named a 2017-19 McKnight Land-Grant Professor last week in an announcement by the University’s Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs. Brandvain is an assistant professor with a joint appointment in the departments of Plant and Microbial Biology and Ecology, Evolution and Behavior.
“Professor Brandvain studies a fundamental question in evolution — the origin and maintenance of species. He represents the new breed of biologist that has the expertise to tackle big questions that are both of basic and applied nature,” says Gary Muehlbauer, head of the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology. “I am pleased that he is a member of the department.”
Brandvain uses genomes as historical guides to the uncover the genetic roots of self-pollinating plant species. He combines theoretical and empirical approaches to characterize, predict, and interpret patterns of genomic variation, interspecific reproductive barriers, species range overlap, reproductive modes, and other key plant traits.
“Some people read the genome as an instruction guide, where you turn this gene on and turn that gene on and you get an organism,” Brandvain says. “What I’m doing is reading the genome as a historical guide where you look at patterns of mutations and patterns of recombination and make a mathematical model and try to understand what happened back in time.”
The two-year award is designed to advance the careers of exceptional junior faculty, providing a $25,000 in research funding in each of the two years.