Marcus Kronforst, PhD, Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolution, has been named a 2015 Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Scientists are nominated for their dedication to pursing the high-risk, high-reward research that can lead to extraordinary findings in bioscience.
Kronforst’s research focuses on evolutionary genetics, using butterflies as a model organism. He and his collaborators have made seminal discoveries, including the genetics of monarch butterfly migration and warning coloration, a gene that functions as a mimicry supergene, the genetics of speciation and many others.
He also investigates the molecular basis of visual attraction, which organisms depend on for navigation, mate selection and many other functions. His current work aims to pinpoint genes linked to color preference, to identify the neurons that respond to different hues and to assess how their activation directs mating behavior.
“We want to know what genes generate the bold color patterns on butterfly wings, what genes cause these same butterflies to prefer their own wing colors when choosing mates, and what molecular mechanisms cause these two very distinct traits to remain genetically linked over evolutionary time,” Kronforst said. “Our results will shed light on the mechanisms of visual attraction and the evolution of new species and they could lead to a better understanding of basic biological processes relevant to human health and well-being.”
The 22 new Pew Biomedical Scholars this year join the ranks of more than 600 outstanding scientists who have been selected as Pew scholars in the 30 years since the program’s inception and whose careers have been dedicated to bold scientific discoveries. Many Pew scholars have also been recognized with prestigious awards, including the Nobel Prize, the Shaw Prize, and the Lasker Award.
Pew biomedical scholars gain entrée into a robust community of researchers. All gather yearly to share their findings and spur new lines of inquiry that lead to partnerships and collaborations that can extend for years.