J. David Van Dyken

Asst. Professor

(305) 284-9054
Locator Code:


Research Interests

My lab is interested in understanding how genetics, cell physiology, ecology and evolution interact across spatial scales ranging from molecules to ecosystems to shape patterns of biocomplexity, biodiversity, and organismal design. We take an integrative, systems-based approach combining high-throughput experiments in the model eukaryote, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a.k.a. brewers yeast, with genetic engineering, computer simulations, bioinformatics and analytical modeling to address fundamental questions in evolution and ecology. This integrative approach allows us to formulate predictions using analytical theory, engineer strains that allow us to test our theory with experiments, and probe their generality with computer simulations. Current projects in the lab include investigating how competitors evolve into cooperators, how population structure and sex effect the maintenance of biocomplexity and biodiversity, how ecologically stable communities evolve over time, and how organisms can engineer their environments to modify the strength and direction of natural selection. With this approach we ultimately hope to gain insight into how biological systems evolve at all scales and how biodiversity is maintained in nature.

Teaching Interests

Science is the basis of technological innovation, which is in turn the cornerstone of our modern economy. Scientific literacy is paramount to the functioning of our society, and producing students prepared and enthusiastic to pursue careers in STEM fields and to meet the technological, ecological and medical challenges of the future is essential to improving global wellbeing. With the larger social importance of science education in mind, my primary goal is for my students to understand the process of science, and to experience its wonder and beauty, by becoming active participants. In addition to gaining hands on experience with designing and conducting experiments, I believe that students should grapple with the conceptual foundations of biology, which are often formalized in the elegant language of mathematics, and be able to apply these concepts to generate and test hypotheses that address basic and applied scientific problems.


2012-2014Post Doctoral Fellow, Harvard University
2011-2012Post Doctoral Fellow, University of British Columbia
2011Ph.D. , Indiana University
2002B.S. , University of Arizona

Professional Experience

2014 - Assistant Professor, Biology Department, University of Miami

Honors & Acknowledgements

NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2011-2014, Intersection of Biology with Mathematics and Physics
NSF IGERT Fellowship, 2008-2010
Indiana METACyt Fellowship, 2005-2007

LIST OF SPECIALTIES: Ecology | Evolutionary Biology


Smith, J., J. D. Van Dyken, and G. Velicer "Nonadaptive processes can create the appearance of facultative cheating in microbes" 816-2668 (Evolution. 2014).

Van Dyken, J.D., Mueller, M. I., Mack, K.M.L, and Desai, M.M "Spatial population expansion promotes the evolution of cooperation in an experimental Prisoner’s Dilemma" 919-2323 (Current Biology. 2013).