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It’s time for some evolutionary biology lessons: JNCASR to host the first SERB-sponsored school in Evolutionary Biology

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If you are a budding researcher with a keen interest in evolution and biology, the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) has some good news for you. The multidisciplinary research institute in Bengaluru is all set to host the first-ever 15-day school in Evolutionary Biology. It is planned to be held from 12–26 March 2019 and is sponsored by the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB).

“Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”, said Prof Theodosius Dobzhansky, a prominent Ukrainian-American evolutionary biologist.

In today’s world, myriad problems like multi-drug resistance in microbes, the complex progressions of cancers and their responses to interventions, and the challenges to vaccine production in rapidly mutating microbes, can all be understood well if we look them through the lens of evolution.

“Evolutionary biology is a perspective that provides a logical framework for understanding biological patterns and processes at structural levels ranging from molecules to ecosystems, and temporal scales ranging from the ecological to the palaeontological”, explains Prof Amitabh Joshi from the Evolutionary and Organismal Biology Unit at JNCASR, in a conversation with Research Matters. He is also the Founding Member, and Member, Executive Council, of the recently formed Indian Society of Evolutionary Biologists (ISEB).

“Biology without this logical structure would be like chemistry without the periodic table and the atomic-level understanding of reactions. It would just be a collection of facts”, says Prof. Joshi.

In India, however, evolution as a subject is not taught in detail at school or university level. “It appears in most university curricula as a small topic, is often presented wrongly or in ways that are severely out of date”, laments Prof. Joshi, adding that young researchers in some sub-area of evolution often have little knowledge of the field as a result.

The proposed school in Evolutionary Biology attempts to change this landscape. Talking about the content of the course, Prof Joshi says, “The development of the evolutionary perspective on biology will be introduced first, along with the conceptual core of evolutionary theory. Then, the focus will be on how this evolutionary perspective is used to understand patterns and processes in space and time that we see in the living world. There will also be coverage of applications of evolutionary biology in addressing real problems faced by the society.”

The school is free and is open to postgraduate students, PhD scholars, postdoctoral researchers and young faculty members in India. The participants would also be provided accommodation and travel support. You can learn more about the school on its website and sign up for some exciting lessons in evolutionary biology by 31st December 2018.

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