Wiser, Michael

Ph.D. in Zoology, Michigan State University, 2015

Mike Wiser grew up in the suburbs of Buffalo, NY. He went to the University of Southern California to earn Bachelor’s degrees in Biochemistry and Psychobiology. After graduation, he earned a Master’s degree from Stanford, then came to Michigan State University for his doctorate.

Wiser’s research at MSU focused on fitness changes over long time periods in experimental populations. Working under Dr. Rich Lenski, Wiser used Dr. Lenski’s Long-Term Evolution Experiment, a study that has run since 1988 tracking over 60,000 generations of E. coli, for his dissertation. Wiser was fascinated with the process of evolution, and questioned its predictability and repeatability.

Wiser measured the fitness of E. coli at many points along their evolutionary history, and fit mathematical models to the data to both explain how fitness changes and to predict how it would continue to change over time. The major result of his research is that even after thousands of generations adapting to a specific environment, the E. coli bacteria is still evolving. And the mathematical function that best describes their changes is one that doesn't have an upper bound to it, meaning it increase indefinitely over time.

Finally, Wiser compared his data with data from digital evolution software – Avida, a platform created by Charles Ofria—to see if the pattern held. They did, which suggests Wiser’s findings are applicable to evolution in general, not just his specific experiment.

For the next chapter in his career, Wiser will remain at MSU as a postdoctoral researcher on an evolution education project. The project is studying how a classroom version of Avida effects student learning about evolution and natural science. Wiser is also questioning if misconceptions about evolution span across institutions, and if using Avida in the classroom helps students use evolution across

In the future, Wiser hopes to teach at a university.