MICHAEL F. ANTOLIN
Professor, Department Chair
Office: Biology, Room 111P
Dr. Mike Antolin arrived at Colorado State University in 1992 (and is originally from rural PA near Gettysburg), after studying biology at the University of Pennsylvania (BA 1981), The University of Alberta, Canada (M.Sc. 1985), and Florida State University (PhD 1990). He is currently Professor and department Chair of the Biology Department.
He studies evolutionary and population biology, and teaches evolution and population genetics at both undergraduate and graduate levels. For the last 20 years his research has focused on evolution and genetics of infectious diseases, which also led to thinking about how evolution may be applied to the medical sciences.
“People in my lab have focused on the epidemiology of plague in Black-tailed prairie. This is the same bacterial pathogen responsible for massive human epidemics in medieval Europe and Asia, what’s known as the Black Death in the 1300s. Native to Asia, plague was accidentally introduced into the western U.S. in the early 1900s and now decimates wild rodent populations throughout the western half of the U.S., along with 10-15 human cases per year. We use genetic analyses to trace transmission pathways. More recently we also started work on the genetics of chronic wasting disease in mule deer northern Colorado. This neurodegenerative disease is similar to the “mad cow disease” in Europe, and is caused by a mis-folded infectious protein called a prion. Again, we use genetic tools to trace transmission pathways”
“My research tends to be interdisciplinary and collaborative, and we have the great fortune of having many colleagues here at Colorado State and with other agencies Fort Collins to help us understand epidemiology and evolution of infectious diseases in natural populations.”
“This life was a natural for me. I was partly feral as a youth, spending much time outdoors in the fields and forests surrounding our house, and in the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains. My father was a philosophy professor who planted the seeds of skepticism in my mind, along with a love for Nature and the trees on the property in southern PA. All are more-or-less still in place.”
He has been promoting science education in Colorado as a charter member of the “Colorado Citizens for Science” advocacy group, which supports teachers by tracking curriculum and science teaching standards for CO public schools. He has written on the “creation-evolution debates” and on science education for the general public. More recently his writings have been on the relationship between evolution and medicine, and on the evolutionary history of the Darwin family of doctors.
Author and co-author of more than 125 scientific publications, Professor Antolin was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2017.
In his role as department chair, he led the efforts to design and build the new Biology Building, a 150,000 square foot comprehensive educational and research facility. “The Biology Building gives our program a distinct home, and a destination for all students, a place for hands-on learning in both classrooms and in the state-of-the-art research facilities.” The Biology Building opened in Fall 2017 (https://www.biology.colostate.edu/new-building/).
In his spare time Dr. Antolin enjoys reading biographies and travel books, puttering in the garden, backpacking, and is an avid skier and hockey player.