Daniel S. Fisher

Stanford University


Primary Section: 13, Physics
Secondary Section: 27, Evolutionary Biology
Membership Type: Member (elected 2015)

Biosketch

Daniel S. Fisher is a theoretical physicist who has worked in a spectrum of areas of statistical physics and biology. He is particularly known for his research on the physics of  disordered material, including spin-glasses, superconductors, nano-scale transport, quantum phase transitions, solid-state analogs of friction, and mechanical fracture. For this body of work, he was awarded the Onsager Prize in 2013.  Fisher was born in London, England in 1956 and emigrated to the US at age nine. He graduated from Cornell University with a degree in mathematics and physics and obtained his PhD from Harvard University in 1979. Fisher began his  professional career as a Member of Technical Staff at AT&T Bell Laboratories, moved to Princeton as a Professor of Physics, and subsequently to Harvard. In 2007 Fisher joined the faculty at Stanford where he is now the David Starr Jordan Professor of Science in Applied Physics and, by Courtesy, in Biology and Bioengineering.  With interests also in public policy, Fisher has served on the governing boards of the Union of  Concerned Scientists, Common Cause, and the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.

Research Interests

After three decades in condensed matter physics, Daniel Fisher’s research focus since 2005 has been on biological questions. This has included cellular biophysics, systems neuroscience, and, particularly, evolutionary dynamics.  He has played a leading role in developing, in collaborations with several experimental groups, laboratory evolution of microbes into a quantitative field with close coupling between theory and experiment. The power of  DNA sequencing of whole populations has enabled tracking the origins and dynamics of mutations in the laboratory, as well as the study of within-species diversity in natural microbial populations. Fisher has developed theoretical frameworks and methods of analysis to infer aspects of the evolutionary history of such populations and distinguish between scenarios. Developing understanding of simple models of evolutionary dynamics, including the benefits of recombination, the statistics of diversity generated by continual selection, and the co-evolution of populations and ecology, has been a main goal of his theoretical work. Fisher has also been involved in high-throughput analyses of antibody repertoires of zebrafish and human immune systems and how these respond to antigens.

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