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Arkhat Abzhanov is an associate professor in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. He is interested in discovering precise genetic and molecular mechanisms for important evolutionary concepts and transitions, such as the origin of evolutionary novelty and convergent evolution.
At Radcliffe, Abzhanov is focusing on elucidating the principles of important evolutionary phenomena from the perspective of a developmental geneticist. In particular, he plans to address the question of both large- and small-scale evolutionary transitions within birds, one of the most successful and diverse groups of organisms on earth. His research group is using a combined approach—which includes morphometric analysis, comparative embryology of key representative species, and functional experimentation—to reveal changes in the developmental (embryological) process that both led to the emergence of birds as a distinct group and underlie continuing adaptive diversification among modern birds.
Abzhanov’s research projects are supported by grants from the John Templeton Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation. His research findings have been broadly described and discussed in both scientific and popular periodicals, in multiple major textbooks, and in radio and TV broadcasts. In 2006 one of Abzhanov’s publications was included among the runners-up for Science magazine’s annual Breakthrough of the Year award, and in 2009 the impact of his publications on the molecular mechanisms of evolution in Darwin’s finches was recognized in Nature’s “15 Evolutionary Gems.” Abzhanov earned his PhD in molecular, cell, and developmental biology from Indiana University.