Vaughn S Cooper, PhD

Associate Professor

Dr. Vaughn Cooper


Fax: 412-624-1401

425 Bridgeside Point 2

450 Technology Drive

Pittsburgh, PA 15219


PhD in Zoology/Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Michigan State University, 2000

AB magna cum laude, Biology, Amherst College, 1994

Research Summary

  1. To understand how bacteria adapt to new environments and/or cause disease. Biofilm-associated infections are our primary focus. We conduct high-throughput genomic analysis of evolved populations and longitudinal studies of infectious isolates. We also develop genome-based diagnostics for bacterial infections.
  2. To advance understanding of evolutionary dynamics in structured communities, relevant to biofilms, solid tumors, and the origins of multicellularity.
  3. To explore variation in genome evolutionary rates associated with replication timing and the cell cycle to improve genome legibility, understand speciation, and to guide more rational treatment of disease states.
  4. To propagate experimental evolution as a both a) a nuanced screen for gain-of-function mutations and b) a method of active learning by students of all ages 

Research Lab Affiliation


Ellis C.N, Traverse C.C, Mayo-Smith L, Buskirk S.W. and Cooper V.S. (2015) Character displacement and the evolution of niche complementarity in a model biofilm community. Evolution. 69: 283-293. |  View Abstract

Dillon M.M, Sung W, Lynch M. and Cooper V.S. (2015) The Rate and Molecular Spectrum of Spontaneous Mutations in the GC-Rich Multichromosome Genome of Burkholderia cenocepacia. Genetics. 200: 935-946. |  View Abstract

Traverse C.C, Mayo-Smith L.M, Poltak S.R. and Cooper V.S. (2013) Tangled bank of experimentally evolved Burkholderia biofilms reflects selection during chronic infections. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 110: E250-9. |  View Abstract

Flynn K.M, Cooper T.F, Moore F.B. and Cooper V.S. (2013) The environment affects epistatic interactions to alter the topology of an empirical fitness landscape. PLoS Genet. 9: e1003426. |  View Abstract

Poltak S.R. and Cooper V.S. (2011) Ecological succession in long-term experimentally evolved biofilms produces synergistic communities. ISME J. 5: 369-378. |  View Abstract

Cooper V.S, Vohr S.H, Wrocklage S.C. and Hatcher P.J. (2010) Why genes evolve faster on secondary chromosomes in bacteria. PLoS Comput Biol. 6: e1000732. |  View Abstract

Cooper V.S. and Lenski R.E. (2000) The population genetics of ecological specialization in evolving Escherichia coli populations. Nature. 407: 736-739. |  View Abstract