Professor Proulx received a BA in Mathematics and Biology from UC Santa Cruz before going on for a PhD at the University of Utah. His graduate work focused on sexual selection, sex allocation, and mate choice. Postdoctoral work at the University of Toronto continued the theme of sexual selection and expanded to include studies of stochastic evolutionary dynamics. He then was an NIH NRSA postdoctoral fellow at the University of Oregon where he began his studies of gene network evolution, in particular on the strength of selection on canalization. He was a professor at Iowa State University for three years before moving to UCSB in 2008.
Research in the Proulx lab uses mathematical and computational approaches to understand fundamental processes in evolutionary biology. We apply these methods to a wide range of biological phenomena. For example, why do females of many species choose mates based on showy display traits? What strategies do males use to determine how much energy and time should be devoted to attracting a mate? It turns out that we can use many of the same mathematical tools to study the evolution of strategies that play out at the genetic level. How should cells evaluate signals from the environment? How should they deal with signals from the environment that might not be accurate? Our current work focuses on the evolution of decision-making gene networks that act as the "brains" of single-celled organisms and play a role in signaling within higher organisms.