About the Thornton Lab

Chicago’s Millennium Park. Photo: L. Picton

Mt. Jefferson, Oregon Cascades. Photo: A. McKeown

We study the mechanisms by which protein functions evolve.  We do this by resurrecting, experimentally characterizing, and manipulating ancient proteins.  We draw on techniques and strategies from evolutionary biology and phylogenetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, and biophysics. The lab includes students, postdocs, and research scientists with expertise in all these areas.

We use this approach to address classical and recent questions about the nature of evolutionary processes, such as:  How do complex molecular systems evolve?  Does evolution proceed by a few large-effect or many small-effect mutations? Does epistasis shape the evolutionary process and make the pathways and outcomes of evolution contingent on chance events?  Is evolution reversible?  How does the architecture of biological systems shape the evolutionary process?  How did evolution produce those architectures in the first place?

We are located in Chicago, IL, (at the University of Chicago) and Eugene, OR (at the University of Oregon).