Richard Lenski bigraphy, stories - American evolutionary biologist

Richard Lenski : biography

August 13, 1956 -
for the Lutheran commentator see Richard C. H. Lenski

Richard E. Lenski (born August 13, 1956) is an American evolutionary biologist, best known for his 25-year long-term E. coli evolution experiment, and his work with digital organisms, using Avida.

Early life

Richard E. Lenski is the son of sociologist Gerhard Lenski and poet Jean Lenski. He is also the great-nephew of children's author Lois Lenski and the great-grandson of Lutheran commentator Richard C. H. Lenski. He earned his BA from Oberlin College in 1976, and his PhD from the University of North Carolina in 1982.


In 1996, Lenski won a MacArthur Fellowship, and in 2006 he was elected to the United States National Academy of Sciences.

Lenski is a fellow at the American Academy of Microbiology and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and holds the office Hannah Distinguished Professor of microbial ecology at Michigan State University.

On February 17, 2010, he co-founded the NSF Science and Technology Center for the Study of Evolution in Action, known as the BEACON Center.

E. coli experiment

The 12 evolving E. coli populations on June 25, 2008 The E. coli long-term evolution experiment is an ongoing study in experimental evolution led by Richard Lenski that has been tracking genetic changes in 12 initially identical populations of asexual Escherichia coli bacteria since 24 February 1988. The populations reached the milestone of 50,000 generations .

Since the experiment's inception, Lenski and his colleagues have reported a wide array of genetic changes; some evolutionary adaptations have occurred in all 12 populations, while others have only appeared in one or a few populations. One particularly striking adaption was the evolution of a strain of E. coli that was able to use citric acid as a carbon source in an aerobic environment.

Avida simulation

Richard Lenski, Charles Ofria, et al. at Michigan State University developed an artificial life computer program with the ability to detail the evolution of complex systems. The system uses values set to determine random mutations and allows for the effect of natural selection to conserve beneficial traits. The program was dubbed Avida and starts with an artificial petri dish where organisms reproduce and perform mathematical calculations to acquire rewards of more computer time for replication. The program randomly adds mutations to copies of the artificial organisms to allow for natural selection. As the artificial life reproduced, different lines adapted and evolved depending on their set environments. The beneficial side to the program is that it parallels that of real life at rapid speeds.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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