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Huffington Foundation Professor of Biology in the College of the Environment, Wesleyan University

Frederick Cohan grew up in Pasadena, California in a close family that ran a small drug store. He graduated from Pasadena High School, earned his B.S. in Biology at Stanford, and was awarded the first Ph.D. from Harvard's then-new department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. Under the mentorship of Richard Lewontin and then Timothy Prout, he used Drosophila to study the forces of cohesion within animal species. As he grew weary of changing flies, he seized an opportunity to reinvent himself as an evolutionary bacteriologist, with the guidance of Conrad Istock and John Spizizen. While he first saw bacteria as a convenient system for studying very general questions about evolution that one might rather study in elephants (if one could), he has grown to see bacteria as very interesting creatures in their own right. He is intrigued by what is the same and different about species and speciation across all walks of life, and investigates how the unique combination of enormous population size and rare but promiscuous genetic exchange in bacteria and viruses affect their speciation and diversity. As the Huffington Foundation Professor in the College of the Environment at Wesleyan University, he teaches various courses in evolutionary biology, bioinformatics, and the effects of global change on infectious disease.


  • –present
    Professor of Biology, Wesleyan University


Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering