Brian Metzger (U-M EEB Ph.D. 2015) is one of 10 recipients of the ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award for 2015. The award, which includes an honorarium of $1,000, is given in recognition of the most exceptional scholarly work produced by doctoral students at the University of Michigan who completed their dissertations in 2015, according to the Rackham Graduate School.

Metzger’s thesis was titled: “Disentangling the effects of mutation and selection on the evolution of gene expression.” He is currently a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Chicago.

Metzger’s research summary follows: “New mutations are the raw material for evolution. However, little is known about the effects or evolutionary consequences of new mutations. For example, much like how the raw materials used during the construction of a building can influence the structure and function of the building, the types of mutational effects available during evolution may influence how evolution proceeds.

“The goal of my thesis work was to test this idea. I found that new mutations can create a variety of effects, but that these effects are often biased towards specific outcomes. In addition, different types of mutations can differ in the types of biases they create, resulting in potentially different evolutionary outcomes based on the frequency by which different mutations occur. By combining this information with what occurred in nature, I was able to show that the mutational process can heavily influence evolutionary outcomes. As a consequence, evolution occurs not only due to the ‘survival of the fittest’, but also the ‘arrival of the fittest.’” 

Each year Rackham invites faculty to nominate outstanding dissertations produced in their programs. The nominations are read and discussed by a faculty review panel who select finalists. Members of the Michigan Society of Fellows read the finalists’ dissertations, review the merits, and select the winners.

The awards will be presented at a ceremony and reception from 2 to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, April 26, 2016 in the Assembly Hall on the fourth floor of the Rackham Graduate School. ProQuest Information Services is the sponsor of the award program, which is open to the university community.