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Department of Veterinary Medicine

Cambridge Veterinary School

Studying at Cambridge

 

Dr Eric Miller

Biography:

After my university work at Cornell University, my doctoral work at the University of Texas at Austin focused on evolution of bacteriophages and bacteria in heterogeneous environments using experimental and bioinformatics approaches. In 2010, I moved to the Max Plank Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Germany for research on the ecology and evolution of wild budding yeast. I then moved to a joint position at Leiden University and the University of Manchester investigating the evolution of bactericidal peptide operons in thousands of Streptococcus pneumoniae isolates. Starting in 2017, I am working with Dr Lucy Weinert at the University of Cambridge on linking pathogenicity of Streptococcus suis with genome reduction across hundreds of strains collected globally. 

Subject groups/Research projects

Infection and Immunity:

Research Interests

I am interested in how the specific environment of microbes affects their genomic evolution. In turn, this evolution can change the biotic and abiotic interactions in the environment, thereby perhaps leading to further evolution. This interplay of evolution and ecology is easiest to study in microbes, due to the smaller genome size and generation time. For my research, I use bioinformatic and laboratory approaches.

 

Streptococcus species are especially interesting for several reasons, all relating to their ecology and evolution. First, these species frequently pick up DNA from the environment and recombine it into their genome. This makes evolution closer to a sexual species than the short-term, clonal linages found in other bacteria. Second, they produce a massively diverse range of bactericidal peptides designed to kill other Streptococcus strains and species; the reason why these peptides are so diverse and why they have evolved to have a narrow killing spectrum is unknown, but it speaks to the importance of the local environment on their evolution. Third, their genome has the ability to rapidly change in short spans of time, such as instances of repeated genome reduction in Streptococcus suis.

Keywords

  • Genomics
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Microbiology
  • Bioinformatics
  • Evolutionary biology

Key Publications

Diverse ecological strategies are encoded by Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteriocin-like peptides.

http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/26983823

Expression of Streptococcus pneumoniae Bacteriocins Is Induced by Antibiotics via Regulatory Interplay with the Competence System

http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1005422

Spore Germination Determines Yeast Inbreeding according to Fitness in the Local Environment

http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/679347