Using novel modelling approaches to investigate the evolution of symmetry in early animals

James McDermott (University College London, in partnership with the Natural History Museum London and Oxford University Museum of Natural History).

Supervised by Dr. Imran Rahman at the Natural History Museum, Dr. Frankie Dunn at Oxford University Museum of Natural History and Dr. Ferdinand Marlétaz at the Centre for Life’s Origin and Evolution (CLOE), University College London.

James graduated with an MPhys in Physics with Astrophysics from the University of Exeter in 2023. His final project took an interdisciplinary approach, modelling biogeochemistry and atmospheric transport to understand whether hypothetical primitive alien life forms on nearby exoplanets could be detectable by future telescopes. This inspired him to pursue further research into the co-evolution of life and the Earth. 

James’ PhD project is investigating the evolution of symmetry in the earliest animals on Earth. This interdisciplinary project uses techniques from engineering to assess the ability of different extinct marine animal body plans to survive in their proposed habitats. He aims to uncover why different symmetry types evolved in animals and what this can tell us about the environment in which they lived.

Funded by the London NERC DTP.