Computational Evolution FRI Stream

What can the evolution of self-replicating computer programs tell us about evolution in nature?

Research on self-replicating computer programs (digital organisms) enables students to experience evolution in action and to perform evolutionary experiments that would take years to complete with natural organisms. Digital organisms evolve to perform computational tasks. Completion of these tasks rewards the organisms with resources they can use to replicate faster and gain a competitive edge. Over time, faster-replicating organisms out-compete slower-replicating ones. Hence, the organisms evolve to complete increasingly complex tasks, in a manner that parallels the evolution of natural organisms. This stream is a good option for students who want to learn about computer science and evolutionary biology.

>>> Computer Science
>>> Biology
>>> Mathematics

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Info for Perspective CE Students

Perspective students should make an appointment to meet with me! I may be contacted via email.

Fall semester FRI Open house hours will be held on the 7th floor of GDC (north tower).
  • Tu 2pm - 4pm
  • Th 10:00am - Noon Open house for October 9th has been CANCELLED.
  • and by appointment

Please arrive on the half-hour.

Published Papers

Experiments on the role of deleterious mutations as stepping stones in adaptive evolution (2013) PNAS [Related blog post]

The role of deleterious mutations in the adaptation to a novel environment. (2012)

What does sex have to do with it: tracking the fate of deleterious mutations in sexual populations. (2012)


I am blogging now! Find my biweekly posts on science, eductation, the fri stream and other tidbits at:

Intro to Avida

Many (but not all) of the students in our stream use the Avida software to gain insights into Evolutionary Biology. In the spring semester, students conduct a series of experiments with Avida on the Texas Advanced Computing Cluster to learn the basics of evolutionary biology and conducting computational science. This is a short (~12 minute) video that gives a high-level introduction to the avida software.

Intro to Avida from Art Covert on Vimeo.