Dr. Matt Pennell
Dr. Matt Pennell is an Associate Professor of Quantitative and Computational Biology and Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Southern California. He earned his Ph.D. in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology from the University of Idaho, where he worked under the supervision of Dr. Luke Harmon. He then moved to the University of British Columbia to be a Izaak Killam/NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow, working with Dr. Sally Otto, and subsequently, a faculty member in the Department of Zoology from 2016-2022. In his research, he uses phylogenetic trees, graphical depictions of historical relationships, to study evolution at multiple scales—from the grandest (e.g., the origin of major groups of organisms) to the smallest (e.g., the transmission of viruses and the development of the adaptive immune system within an individual) of scales. While superficially disparate, these projects all revolve around a few common themes: he aims to define the outer boundaries of our knowledge and understand what we can and cannot learn about evolution from different types of data. In recognition of his contributions, he was awarded the Theodosius Dobzhansky Prize from the Society for the Study of Evolution, the Jasper Loftus-Hills Young Investigator Prize from the American Society of Naturalists, and a Canada Research Chair from the Government of Canada.
Current Lab members
Dr. Josh Schraiber
Dr. Schraiber is working on mathematical models at the intersection of macroevolution and population genetics
Dr. Daohan “Rex” Jiang
Dr. Jiang combines simulations and empirical analyses to understand evolutionary variation in transcription and translation
Dr. Alex Cope
Dr. Cope is developing new approaches for analyzing comparative transcriptomic and proteomic data
Rituparna (UBC BIOINF.) is developing new mathematical models to understand the co-evolution of viruses and B-cells
Kat (USC CBB) is applying evolutionary approaches to understand variation in immunoglobulins
Yixin (USC CBB) is applying evolutionary approaches to understand variation in immunoglobulins
Dr. Chris Muir
Dr. Muir studied the evolutionary processes that generate diversity in plant ecophysiology
Dr. Ailene MacPherson
Dr. Ailene MacPherson derived mathematical models that predicted phylogenetic tree shape from epidemiological process.
Dr. Francisco Henao Diaz
Dr. Henao Diaz (Ph.D., 2022, UBC) investigated the footprint of diversification dynamics on phylogenetic trees and biodiversity gradients.
Dr. Katrina Kaur
Dr. Kaur (Ph.D., 2022, UBC) investigated the influence of species interactions on diversification dynamics.
Fiel (M.Sc. 2022, UBC) assessed the performance of phylogenetic models for describing the evolutionary dynamics of gene expression.
Barbara (M.Sc. 2020, UBC) studied the evolution of photosynthetic capacity across angiosperms using a ‘macroevolutionary common garden’.
Mauro investigated how eco-evolutionary dynamics shaped patterns of biodiversity, using both theoretical and empirical approaches.
Join the lab
Computational Biology and Bioinformatics
Most of the students in the lab will be enrolled in the Computational Biology and Bioinformatics (CBB) Ph.D. program.
The next admission deadline is Dec. 15, 2023. Interested students may, but do not need to, contact me prior to submitting an application. Students are admitted by the program and do not need to have decided on a lab prior to applying; there are many other excellent research groups affiliated with the Department of Quantitative and Computational Biology and I would advise interested students to check these groups out as well.
Unlike many other programs at other universities, the CBB program does not discriminate between domestic and international applicants. We have a long tradition of training researchers from all around the world.
Marine and Environmental Biology
Our lab is also part of the Marine and Environmental Biology section of the Biological Sciences Department at USC. And we can take students enrolled in Marine and Environmental Biology Ph.D. program. If you are interested in being admitted through this program, please contact please contact Dr. Pennell directly. directly to discuss this option.