Vaughn Cooper, Ph.D.

Vaughn Cooper, Ph.D.

The University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine

Vaughn Cooper, Ph.D., is an evolutionary biologist and microbiologist. He is currently professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, and computational and systems biology, at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He co-founded and is Director of the Center for Evolutionary Biology and Medicine (CEBaM), which catalyzes research and education at the interface of these disciplines. He’s also a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and, prior to being elected as a member of the ASM Board of Directors, was Chair of the Council for Microbial Sciences.

Cooper received his bachelor’s degree from Amherst College and his Ph.D. in 2000 from Michigan State University, under the mentorship of Richard Lenski, Ph.D. At MSU, he studied the evolution of specialization within the E. coli long term evolution experiment. Cooper was a postdoctoral fellow of the Michigan Society of Fellows at the University of Michigan, where, along with John LiPuma, M.D., he studied pathogen evolution within the cystic fibrosis airway. He was an assistant and associate professor at the University of New Hampshire from 2004-2015, moving to the University of Pittsburgh in 2015.

Today, the Cooper laboratory studies how potential pathogens (e.g., bacteria such as Burkholderia, Pseudomonas, Acinetobacter and some viruses) evolve to adapt to new hosts and environments. Other major interests include how and why evolution in biofilms differs from well-mixed conditions, the evolution of antimicrobial resistance and why genome regions mutate and evolve at different rates. To enable these studies the lab runs a genomic core tailored to efficient microbial genome sequencing and bioinformatic analyses that aims to identify genetic causes of adaptation and/or drug tolerance during infections.

A broader goal of the Cooper lab is to share the wonder and power of evolutionary biology through outreach and mentorship. The lab's EvolvingSTEM program provides authentic research experiences and essential learning of evolution, microbiology and genetics through weeklong experiments in the classroom. EvolvingSTEM engages more than 1500 students annually in grades 6-16 and significantly improves student learning and attitudes toward STEM.