Eric Libby bio photo

Eric Libby

Research fellow at the Sante Fe Institute studying the evolution of biological complexity

Email Google Scholar Twitter

What we do

We focus on microbial systems in order to understand how biological complexity evolves. Microbes are ideal because they exhibit tremendous diversity in terms of life strategies– so much so that they often obfuscate concepts, like species or organism, that are clearer in higher level systems. In general, most biological complexity has its origins, if not its perfection, in these systems.

An added bonus of microbes is that some are very amenable to experimental study (others, however are complete mysteries). Modern lab techniques enable us to learn how mutations in the genomes of these organisms translate into different– possibly novel– phenotypes. We collaborate with talented experimentalists to marry theory with empirical results to uncover general principles of how life evolves to be complex.

We use a wide variety of mathematical and computational techniques to address our research questions. The techniques include but are not limited to:

  • Differential equations
  • Nonlinear dynamics
  • Stochastic processes
  • Network/graph theory
  • Optimization
  • Game theory
  • Evolutionary simulations
  • Bayesian inference

Who we are

Principle Investigator

Eric Libby: I am captivated by the diverse spectrum of life and want to find general principles/theory that explains how it arises and evolves.



Former PhDs

Yuriy Pichugin Yuriy was a PhD student at Massey University in New Zealand. He just successfully defended his thesis on multicellularity and the evolution of Darwinian individuals. Congratulations to him!






Former REUs

Emma Wolinsky Emma came to SFI from UC Berkeley during the summer of 2014. She worked on models of the evolution of primitive developmental programs in Pseudomonas fluorescens . We published our results in the journal Evolutionary Ecology .







Justin Carmichael Justin came to SFI from the University of New Mexico during the summer of 2015 to work with Andrew Berdahl and me on the evolution of collective movement. Our research is ongoing and will hopefully be published some time soon.






Graduate and Undergraduate Researchers

Your name here! Opportunities abound. Please email me if you are interested.