- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 22, 2015

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan State University has been awarded $22.5 million by the National Science Foundation to continue evolution research, education and outreach.

Funding announced this month supports the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action, the East Lansing school said. Erik Goodman, director of the center, said in a statement that the support will “enable continuing breakthroughs” by its researchers.

Since 2010, the center has brought together evolutionary biologists, computer scientists and engineers. Study areas include the evolution of disease, reducing the evolution of antibiotic resistance and predicting how populations of organisms respond to climate change.

“Researchers are drawn to BEACON because the frequent exchange of ideas makes it worthwhile for their research, energizing everyone involved,” Goodman said.

The school said researchers involved in the center use so-called digital organisms - self-reproducing computer programs operating in a controlled computer environment - to explore evolutionary dynamics much more rapidly than studies in the lab or field.

George Gilchrist, program director in National Science Foundation’s Division of Environmental Biology, said the center has worked to develop more-sophisticated evolutionary computational models to help solve problems face by science and industry alike.

That will continue, he said, with “new advances in taking inspiration from the algorithmic nature of the evolutionary process.”

BEACON stands for “Bio/Computational Evolution in Action CONsortium.” The Michigan State-based center has a number of partners across the U.S., including the University of Idaho, North Carolina A&T; State University, University of Texas at Austin and University of Washington.

The BEACON Center is one of 14 National Science Foundation Science and Technology Centers.

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Online:

https://beacon-center.org

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