Microbial Studies of Cellular Decision-Making: Game Theory and the Evolutionary Origins of Cooperation

In this project Dr. Jeff Gore uses laboratory experiments to probe how micro-organisms make decisions when placed in environments that require game theoretic reasoning, where the optimal strategy for a particular individual depends upon the strategies being followed by other individuals in the population. In one set of projects they are exploring the factors that stabilize cooperation within a population. As their primary model system they are exploring how budding yeast cooperatively break down the sugar sucrose. Dr. Gore’s research group focuses on the role of ecological factors such as range expansions, spatial structure, and coupling between evolutionary dynamics and population dynamics. They are also interested in how stochastic gene expression may allow micro-organisms to “solve” some games in which the solution requires a probabilistic “mix” of different strategies.

Affiliated Investigators

Jeff Gore, Ph.D.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Jeff Gore’s group uses laboratory microcosms to explore the ecological dynamics of interacting populations. Of particular interest are cooperatively growing populations, which can collapse suddenly in deteriorating environments and can also be susceptible to the emergence of “cheater” strategies. He studied physics, mathematics, and economics at MIT before earning his PhD in Physics at the University of California, Berkeley as a Hertz Fellow studying single-molecule biophysics. He then returned to MIT as a Pappalardo Fellow, where he used ideas from game theory to explore the evolution of cooperation and cheating.

In addition to being an Allen Distinguished Investigator, Prof. Gore is an NIH New Innovator Awardee, Sloan Fellow, Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences, NSF CAREER Awardee, and NIH Pathways to Independence Awardee (K99/R00). Finally, his efforts in teaching and mentoring have been recognized by the Buechner Teaching Award and the MIT-wide undergraduate research Faculty Mentor of the Year Award.

Prof. Gore has also been active in the quantitative biology / biophysics community. He is the primary faculty organizer for the interdepartmental biophysics initiative at MIT, which includes a Graduate Certificate Program, annual overnight retreat, bi-weekly seminar series, student lunch talks, and faculty chalk talks. In addition, he is the PI for the Physics of Living Systems Postdoctoral Fellows Program supported by the Moore Foundation. Outside MIT, Prof. Gore is on the editorial board of PLOS Biology, on the program committee for the q-bio meeting, a member-at-large of DBIO at the APS, and is an interviewer for the Hertz Graduate Fellowship.