Theoretical physics of ecology and evolution
Microbial communities shape the health of our planet, and our own. These complex ecosystems harbor hundreds of coexisting “species”. Thanks to a recent technological revolution, their study is a very active and exciting field; the amount of new data collected every day is truly extraordinary. And yet we still understand very little. The challenge is not just experimental and technological: it is also theoretical. Microbiology and microbiome research are revolutionizing biology, making us question some of the most basic concepts, such as "species", "fitness", and even "organism". What if our macroscopic intuition about ecology and evolution is simply wrong at the scale of microbial life?
To make progress, data is essential, but not sufficient. The mission of our group is to combine data-intensive inquiry with a serious theoretical effort, bringing tools and ideas from physics to conceptual problems in biology. Drawing on the rigorous tradition of statistical physics and close experimental collaborations, our aim is to develop high-diversity ecology as a field at the intersection of statistical physics, classical ecology, experimental microbiology and bioinformatics.