Seppe Kuehn

Assistant Professor


Seppe Kuehn

Primary Research Area

  • Biological Physics
331 Loomis Laboratory

For more information


Professor Kuehn completed a Ph.D. in Chemical Physics at Cornell University studying on non-contact friction and magnetic resonance force microscopy. During his postdoctoral research Dr. Kuehn began work in biology at The Rockefeller University. There he pursued measurements of population dynamics in microbial communities and behavioral diversity in microbes.

Research Statement

The Kuehn lab makes quantitative measurements of ecological and evolutionary dynamics. Our research is directed towards understanding the fundamental principles governing dynamics in complex biological systems at two levels of organization. First, we use model microbial ecosystems to study stability, adaptation and function of microbial communities. Second, we study the structure of the map between genotypes and phenotypes in model microbial systems to discover the rule of adaptive evolution.

Research Honors

  • Scialog Fellow. Moore Foundation/Research Corporation. 2015-2017.
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship, Helen Hay Whitney Foundation. 2009-2012.
  • Tunis Wentink Award for outstanding Ph.D. thesis.  Cornell University.  2007

Semesters Ranked Excellent Teacher by Students

Fall 2017PHYS 102

Selected Articles in Journals

Related news

  • Research
  • Biological Physics

Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have produced the most precise picture to date of population dynamics in fluctuating feast-or-famine conditions. Professor Seppe Kuehn, a biological physicist, and his graduate student Jason Merritt found that bacterial population density is a function of both the frequency and the amplitude of nutrient fluctuations. They found that the more frequent the feast cycles and the longer a feast cycle, the more rapid the population recovery from a famine state. This result has important implications for understanding how microbial populations cope with the constant nutrient fluctuations they experience in nature.

  • Research

While heritable genetic mutations can alter phenotypic traits and enable populations to adapt to their environment, adaptation is frequently limited by trade-offs: a mutation advantageous to one trait might be detrimental to another.

Because of the interplay between the selection pressures present in complex environments and the trade-offs constraining phenotypes, predicting evolutionary dynamics is difficult.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have shown how evolutionary dynamics proceed when selection acts on two traits governed by a trade-off. The results move the life sciences a step closer to understanding the full complexity of evolution at the cellular level.