Jeff Gore, Latham Family Career Development Assistant Professor of Physics

Jeff Gore
Latham Family Career Development Assistant Professor of Physics

EMAIL: gore@mit.edu

PHONE: (617) 715-4251

OFFICE: NE46-609

ASSISTANT: Monica Wolf (617) 253-4829


Area of Physics:


Research Interests

The Gore biophysics laboratory uses microbial populations to experimentally probe fundamental ideas in theoretical ecology and evolutionary systems biology.

Behavior of populations before collapse – Natural populations can collapse suddenly in deteriorating environmental conditions, and recovery after such a collapse can be exceedingly difficult. Theory predicts that in principle changes in the fluctuations of the population size can be used to anticipate an impending "tipping point" leading to population collapse. Our group has used laboratory yeast populations to experimentally measure these theoretically predicted early warning indicators based on critical slowing down (Dai et al, Science (2012)). More recently, the group demonstrated that there is a spatial analogue to the standard time-based indicator. Isolated populations near a tipping point experience an increase in "recovery time" following a perturbation, whereas spatially extended populations near a tipping point experience an increase in a "recovery length" near a boundary between regions of different quality (Dai et al, Nature (2013)). The laboratory is now exploring how these early warning indicators behave in more complicated situations, including populations with genetic heterogeneity and in multi-species ecosystems.

Evolution of cooperation – The conditions required for the initiation and maintenance of cooperative behaviors is a classic problem in evolutionary biology. How can cooperators survive when they can be taken advantage of by "cheaters"?  As a Pappalardo Postdoctoral Fellow here at MIT, Jeff used sucrose metabolism in yeast as a model system to study the evolution of cooperation (Gore et al, Nature (2009)). The normal "cooperative" cells secrete the enzyme that breaks down sucrose, whereas cells lacking the gene encoding this enzyme act as cheaters because they do not contribute to breaking down this shared resource. Jeff found that the cooperators can survive even in the presence of cheaters because the cooperators capture a small fraction (~1%) of the sugar they create before it is shared, thus making the interaction what game theorists call a snowdrift game (as compared to the standard model of cooperation known as the prisoner’s dilemma, in which cooperation goes extinct in these simple well-mixed conditions). The laboratory has used this model system to demonstrate that both spatial expansion and competition between species can favor cooperation (Datta et al, PNAS (2013); Celiker and Gore, Molecular Systems Biology (2013))). We have also found that the evolutionary dynamics between cooperator and cheater interact in a feedback loop with changes in the population size to determine how populations respond to environmental deterioration (Sanchez and Gore, PLOS Biology (2013)). More recently, the laboratory has explored the evolutionary consequences of the cooperative inactivation of antibiotics by bacteria (Yurtsev et al, Molecular Systems Biology (2013); Artemova et al, submitted (2013)).

Rugged fitness landscapes and the reversibility of evolution – The fitness effect of a mutation often depends upon the presence or absence of other mutations in the genome. This genetic epistasis leads to "rugged fitness landscapes" that may constrain the path of evolution. Using a publicly available dataset of the growth rate of millions of double gene knockouts in yeast, the group found a surprisingly weak scaling of the epistatic interactions with the strength of mutations (Velenich and Gore, Genome Biology (2013)). The laboratory has also measured the fitness landscapes corresponding to different versions of an antibiotic resistance gene in two different antibiotics to explore the reversibility of evolution worked to quantify the magnitude of these effects and has also used these ideas to explore the reversibility of evolution in the context of molecular changes in an enzyme (Tan et al, Phys Rev Lett (2012)). In an intriguing parallel to thermodynamics, the lab has also found that slowly switching between environments increases the reversibility of evolution for small populations (Tan et al, Evolution (2012)).

Biographical Sketch

Jeff joined the MIT Physics Department as an Assistant Professor in January 2010 after spending the previous three years in the Department as a Pappalardo Fellow working with Alexander van Oudenaarden. With the support of a Hertz Graduate Fellowship, in 2005 he received his PhD from the Physics Department at the University of California, Berkeley. His graduate research in single-molecule biophysics was done in the laboratory of Carlos Bustamante, focusing on the study of twist and torque in single molecules of DNA. Jeff is excited to be in the Physics Department here at MIT, particularly since this is where he studied as an undergraduate in the late ‘90s.

Awards and Honors

Selected Publications

For a full list of publications, please go to the laboratory website or Jeff’s google scholar profile.

Last updated on September 21, 2015 9:13 AM