In this episode, we interview Dalhousie University’s Dr. Alastair Simpson, an evolutionary biologist. We talk to him about a widely-publicized paper his team landed in the journal Nature last fall, and how studying the genetic information of microbes helps us better understand the evolution of complex lifeforms on Earth. We also take a break from the science to discuss the sport that helps Dr. Simpson get through Canadian winters.
Dr. Simpson grew up in Sydney, Australia. He first came to North America for some of his graduate work at the storied Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.
Then he landed a post-doc position here at Dalhousie in the Med School’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology – and he’s been with the university ever since.
Dr. Simpson was drawn to evolutionary biology in his undergrad because of how much we still don’t know about complex lifeforms on Earth. Today, he contributes to his field with research on eukaryotic microbes, also known as “Protists”. They’re organisms with complex cells – just like us – but they don’t belong to the animal kingdom, and they aren’t plants or fungi either. These microbes form many different branches on the Tree of Life, and Dr. Simpson’s team is particularly interested in the species that are predators; the ones that eat other microbes to survive and reproduce themselves.