Helen Alexander


  • 2004-2008: BSc (Hon) in Applied Mathematics & Minor in Medical Sciences, University of Western Ontario, London, Canada
  • 2008-2010: MSc in Mathematics, Queen's University, Kingston, Canada
  • 2010-2014: PhD in Theoretical Biology, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2015-2016: Postdoc in Theoretical Biology, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2016-2019: Swiss National Science Foundation mobility postdoc fellow, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, UK
  • 2019-present: Royal Society University Research Fellow, Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh, UK

Research summary

My research addresses how organisms adapt to and survive severe environmental changes, a process called "evolutionary rescue". In particular, I study how bacterial pathogens evolve resistance to antibiotic treatment. This serves as both a model system to understand fundamental evolutionary principles, and an important applied topic in public health. I am especially interested in stochastic processes underlying evolution: the production of rare mutations and the demographic dynamics of small populations. I address these topics through mathematical modelling, wet lab experiments, and statistical inference.


My current interests include:

  • stochastic population dynamics of antibiotic-resistant bacterial populations starting from single cells
  • effects of ecological context (e.g. presence of sensitive bacteria) on the emergence of antibiotic resistance
  • optimal antibiotic dosing schedules
  • causes and consequences of bacterial mutation rate variation (among individual cells, through time)


Past research projects included:

  • emerging epidemics
  • within-host evolution of drug resistance in chronic viral diseases (e.g. HIV)
  • immune escape in HIV
  • phylodynamic inference methods
  • phenotypic delay in the expression of new mutations in bacteria


For a full publication list, please see: http://scholar.google.ch/citations?user=jRW2Z7QAAAAJ