Rice University
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Ever since Charles Darwin unleashed his ideas on the world in 1859, evolution has been one of the cornerstones of science and also a source of insight into who we are and what our place is in the world.   Rice University has a large number of faculty who apply evolutionary principles, scattered across numerous departments.  The goal of the Rice Center for Evolution is to bring this group together and create synergies that will put Rice at the forefront of evolutionary research.

We have near-critical mass in at least two exciting areas.   The first is in a novel and  unexpected area: practical evolutionary research.  Traditionally evolution has been used primarily to explain the past.  However, many practical applications of evolution are now emerging, for example in genomics, systems biology, biocomplexity, medicine, genetic engineering, and conservation biology.  Numerous evolutionary applications in medicine are of particular interest given Rice's ties within the Texas Medical Center.

A second strength is in the evolution of cooperation.  Few scientific questions generate more interest than the evolution of cooperation, altruism, and cheating, partly because our own interactions with other human animals are so central to our lives. Cooperation can also be important in understanding disease as cooperative structures like biofilms characterize some of the most intransigent diseases, for example cystic fibrosis.

Although evolution pervades all of biology and even other fields, misunderstandings about evolution persist in society.  Anti-evolution movements threaten both the integrity of science education in Texas schools and Texas' ability to attract industry. If Texas is to remain economically competitive, our future citizens must be armed with the knowledge and skills for success.  The Center for Evolution will serve Rice's mission in public outreach in this crucial area.