Paul Turner named the Elihu Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Paul E. Turner

Paul E. Turner, newly named as the Elihu Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, is interested in examining how viruses evolutionarily adapt to overcome new challenges, such as emergence on novel host species, transmission via new arthropod vectors, survival at elevated temperatures, or changes in host immunity.

Because microorganisms allow experiments on the order of hundreds (or even thousands) of generations, microbes provide a uniquely powerful system to study evolution in action. Turner’s laboratory uses microorganisms (RNA viruses, DNA viruses, bacteria) as model systems to address hypotheses in ecological and evolutionary theory, especially questions regarding the evolution of genetic exchange (sex), virus ecology and evolution, host-parasite interactions, and the evolution of infectious disease. He also examines how microbes can be used to solve human problems, such as the application of viruses as treatments against bacterial infections or targeted destruction of cancerous tumors. Turner’s group uses an interdisciplinary approach to investigate these processes, employing techniques from microbiology, population genetics, genomics, molecular biology, and mathematical modeling.

A graduate of the University of Rochester, Turner earned his Ph.D. in microbial ecology and evolution from Michigan State University. He conducted postdoctoral research at the National Institutes of Health, the University of Valencia (Spain), and the University of Maryland-College Park. He came to Yale in 2001 as assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and gained tenure in 2007. Prior to his new appointment, Turner has served as director of graduate studies and chair of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and since 2002 he has held a secondary appointment in the Microbiology Graduate Program in the Yale School of Medicine.

Turner has published nearly 100 peer-reviewed journal articles, including papers in Nature, Science, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, as well as numerous book chapters and reports for government agencies. He has been awarded grants from private foundations and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, as well as federal agencies including National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and NASA. He has served as associate editor for scientific journals such as Virus Evolution, and Evolution (International Journal of Organic Evolution); as a member of the Committee on Minority Education and as Division Councilor for the American Society for Microbiology; and on the Biological Sciences Advisory Committee of the National Science Foundation.

Turner’s honors include a Career Enhancement Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation; the E.E. Just Endowed Research Fellowship, and William Townsend Porter Award from Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA; and as a representative in the United States delegation at the joint U.S.A.-Russia Workshop on Infectious Disease held in Novosibirsk, Russia.

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