Olson Lab News

February 17th, 2014

Congratulations to Sarah Cossey and Jaden Anderson. Both were awarded K-State College of Arts and Sciences laboratory research fellowships to support their research projects in the lab.

January 2014

Congratulations to Tara Marriage who talk placed second placea the the annual statewide KINBRE symposium

November 8th, 2013

Congratulations to Sarah Cossey and Jaden Anderson. Both were awarded Cancer Research Awards by the K-State Johnson Center for Basic Cancer Research to support the research.

October 10th, 2013

Congratulations to Sarah Cossey and Jaden Anderson. Both were awarded K-State College of Arts and Sciences laboratory research fellowships to support their research projects in the lab.

August 1st, 2013

Congratulations to Andrea Kieffer for a 2nd place showing in the University-wide REU/URM poster session!

July 21st, 2013

We welcome Adelaide Delahaye to the lab, she is starting her PhD in Biology.

June 10th, 2013

We welcome Chris Berger to the lab, he is starting his MS in Biology.

May 28th, 2013

We welcome Nicole Richardson from the University of Iowa to the lab. She is a NSF REU student in the lab this summer.

May 1st, 2013

Tara Marriage has been awarded a NIH/K-INBRE post-doctoral fellowship for her continued training in the lab.

April 28th, 2013

Andrea Kieffer has been awarded a K-State Ecogen URM fellowship to continue her research in the lab!

April 19th, 2013

Congratulations to Sarah Cossey and Andrea Kieffer for receiving Cancer Research Awards from the Johnson Cancer Center. Special thanks to Sunny 102.5 and Coach Bill Snyder for supporting these awards.

February 20th, 2013

Brad's talk at the the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics was featured in The Scientist Magazine.

February 4, 2013

Brad Olson is a resident faculty of the The Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California Santa Barbara. He will spend six weeks at the KITP as part of the "Multicellularity 2013" program.

Research in the Olson Lab

Welcome to the Olson Lab where we study how multicellular organisms evolve.

The long term goal of the laboratory is to understand the molecular and ecological basis of major evolutionary state transitions. The primary question my laboratory investigates is how did multicellular organisms evolve? Multicellular organisms are those we most commonly perceive in our “macro” environment, yet little is known about the molecular and ecological basis of multicellular evolution unknown.

To study the evolution of multicellularity, my laboratory uses green algae as a model system. The volvocacean algae have been an important “textbook” model for multicellular evolution for many years. The volvocales are an order of closely related, recently diverged algal species that range from unicellular to multicellular (Fig. 1). Well known member species include the unicellular algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and Volvox carteri.

Multicellularity Morphology

Fig. 1: Morphology of key volvocales suggests stepwise evolution of multicellularity

The morphological and evolutionary progression of the volvocales suggests stepwise evolution of multicellularity, starting with colony formation between unicells (e.g. Gonium), then a stepwise progression of cell expansion, division of labor, specialization and tissue differentiation (e.g. Volvox). Despite their morphological differences, the genomes of Chlamydomonas and Volvox are remarkably similar, suggesting that multicellularity requires few genetic changes.

My laboratory is utilizing two key approaches for understanding the molecular basis of multicellular evolution. First, my laboratory is leading a consortium to sequence the genomes and determine the developmental transcriptional profiles of several key volvocales. Second, my laboratory is using a systems biology approach toward determining which genes are important for all steps of multicellularity. My laboratory is particularly interested in understanding how and why individual unicells formed groups of cooperative cells, termed colonialism. To do this we are focusing on Gonium (Fig. 1) as a model for colonial evolution.

Understanding how and why individual cells evolved into multicellular organisms is an important evolutionary question and is important for our understanding of how human bodies maintain organizational control over cells. For example, human cancer is a fundamental loss of control of the growth and division of cells within the tissues of the body. Many of the genes defective in human cancers have been identified, however little is known about how multicellular organisms evolved control over their individual constituent cells. Long term, research in my laboratory is aimed at understanding how organisms evolved regulatory pathways controlling cell growth, division, and differentiation so that new approaches to cancer treatment could be developed.