The NWO Domain Board Science has approved grant applications in the Open Competition Domain Science-M program. Leo van Iersel, mathematician at DIAM, has been awarded a grant to study networks in evolutionary biology. Together with Steven Kelk from Maastricht University, he will investigate mathematically whether it will ever be possible to retrace all steps in evolutionary history.

Networks have long been used to understand the evolution of species, as they provide a visual representation of how different species or variants have split and combined over time to ultimately lead to the ones that exist today. However, one question that has long puzzled scientists is whether it is actually possible to accurately reconstruct these networks from DNA data, or if there are fundamental limitations that prevent us from doing so.

Leo van Iersel is determined to find the answer to this question. He will use the grant in the Open Competition Domain Science-M programme to further study the use of networks in evolutionary history from a mathematical perspective.

To do this, Van Iersel will be combining techniques from algebra, statistics, and combinatorics to determine the feasibility of accurately reconstructing evolutionary networks from DNA data. This research has the potential to provide valuable insights into the evolution of species and deepen our understanding of the natural world.