‌J. David Van Dyken


Office/Lab: 234  Cox Science Center
E-mail: vandyken@bio.miami.edu
Office: (305) 284-9052

Lab website


Assistant Professor, 2014-present, Biology Department, University of Miami
Postdoctoral Fellow, 2012-2014, Harvard University
Postdoctoral Fellow, 2011-2012, University of British Columbia
Ph.D., 2011, Indiana University
B.S., 2002, University of Arizona


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


  • Ecology & Evolutionary Biology


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.


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.     


Smith, J., J. D. Van Dyken, and G. Velicer. 2014. Nonadaptive processes can create the appearance of facultative cheating in microbes. Evolution 68: 816-826.

Van Dyken, J.D., Mueller, M. I., Mack, K.M.L, and Desai, M.M. 2013.  Spatial population expansion promotes the evolution of cooperation in an experimental Prisoner’s Dilemma.  Current Biology 23: 919-923.

Van Dyken, J.D., and M. J. Wade. 2012. Origins of altruism diversity II: Runaway altruism co-evolution via reciprocal niche-construction. Evolution 66: 2498-2513.

Van Dyken, J.D., and M. J. Wade. 2012. Origins of altruism diversity I: The diversity of altruistic strategies and their evolutionary responses to local competition. Evolution 66: 2484-2497.

Van Dyken, J.D., and M. J. Wade. 2012. Detecting the molecular signature of social conflict: Theory and a test with bacterial quorum sensing genes. The American Naturalist 179: 436-450.

Smith, J., J. D. Van Dyken, P. Zee.  2010.  A generalization of Hamilton’s rule for the evolution of microbial cooperation.  Science 328: 1700-1703.

Wade, M. J., D. S. Wilson, C. Goodnight, D. Taylor, Y. Bar-Yam, M. A. de Aguiar, B. Stacey, J. Werfel, G. A. Hoelzer, E. D. Brodie, 3rd, P. Fields, F. Breden, T. A. Linksvayer, J. A. Fletcher, P. J. Richerson, J. D. Bever, J. D. Van Dyken, and P. Zee. 2010. Multilevel and kin selection in a connected world. Nature 463:E8-9.