Fifty years ago, scientists at the University of Chicago sought to break through traditional academic barriers to revolutionize the field of biology.
They created the Committee on Evolutionary Biology, which has been a driving force behind impactful scientific inquiry at the University of Chicago ever since. To this day, its deeply interconnected graduate program is challenging conventional thinking through pioneering scholarship and a transformative education for students.
“You would think that something this effective also would be functioning in New York or London or Paris or anywhere else they’ve got world-class universities and museums and collections and zoos and botanic gardens, but it isn’t,” said Prof. Michael Coates, a world-renowned scholar of early vertebrate evolution, who chairs the committee.
By forging deep partnerships with scientific institutions in Chicago and beyond, the Committee on Evolutionary Biology creates fertile ground for faculty and students to pursue cutting-edge theory and field-defining research—from the South Side to the South Pacific, examining everything from Whatcheeria fossils to weaver ants.
“I’ve never seen a program that operates with such a strong commitment to intellectual diversity,” said Prof. David Jablonski, a leading scientist of extinction and biodiversity.
The Committee on Evolutionary Biology will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a two-day event Nov. 21-22, featuring scholars, students and alumni of the program discussing their groundbreaking research and scientific achievements.
The committee is built on partnerships, both at UChicago and throughout the city. When the committee formed in 1968, it embraced UChicago’s already deep ties with the Field Museum. Since then, it has developed strong ties with five other leading institutions in greater Chicago: UChicago-affiliated Argonne National Laboratory, the Brookfield Zoo, the Chicago Botanic Garden, Lincoln Park Zoo and the Morton Arboretum. The Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole became a partner through its affiliation with UChicago that started in 2013.
“What makes it work is reciprocity and engagement,” Coates said. Read more …
Photo: Profs. David Jablonski (left) and Trevor Price (right) collaborate on interdisciplinary research. Students in both of their labs shared co-authorship of two related studies on biodiversity in birds and marine bivalves. Credit: John Zich