My research focuses on conceptual issues in biology and has concentrated on evolutionary developmental biology (Evo-devo), developmental biology, molecular biology, and paleontology (among others). I use a combination of approaches to investigate a variety of philosophical questions: conceptual change, explanatory pluralism, knowledge structure, reductionism, the nature of historical science, and interdisciplinary epistemology. Other areas of interest include the role of history in philosophical research and the nature of intuitions generated by thought experiments in philosophical inquiry.

For a humorous and informative introduction to Evo-devo, I recommend watching this video!


Ph.D. - History and Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh - 2005

M.A. - Biology (Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior Program), Indiana University, Bloomington - 2004

M.A. - Philosophy, University of Pittsburgh - 2002

B.S. - Biology (Minor: Philosophy), M.I.T. - 1995

Doctoral dissertation

Explaining Evolutionary Innovation and Novelty: A Historical and Philosophical Study of Biological Concepts (pdf)


James Lennox [Director] (History and Philosophy of Science/Center for Philosophy of Science - University of Pittsburgh); Sandra Mitchell (History and Philosophy of Science - University of Pittsburgh); Robert Olby (History and Philosophy of Science - University of Pittsburgh); Rudolf Raff (Biology - Indiana University, Bloomington); Günter Wagner (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology - Yale University)


Explaining evolutionary novelties (such as feathers or neural crest cells) is a central item on the research agenda of evolutionary developmental biology (Evo-devo). Proponents of Evo-devo have claimed that the origin of innovation and novelty constitute a distinct research problem, ignored by evolutionary theory during the latter half of the 20th century, and that Evo-devo as a synthesis of biological disciplines is in a unique position to address this problem. In order to answer historical and philosophical questions attending these claims, two philosophical tools were developed. The first, conceptual clusters, captures the joint deployment of concepts in the offering of scientific explanations and allows for a novel definition of conceptual change. The second, problem agendas, captures the multifaceted nature of explanatory domains in biological science and their diachronic stability. The value of problem agendas as an analytical unit is illustrated through the examples of avian feather and flight origination. Historical research shows that explanations of innovation and novelty were not ignored. They were situated in disciplines such as comparative embryology, morphology, and paleontology (exemplified in the research of N.J. Berrill, D.D. Davis, and W.K. Gregory), which were overlooked because of a historiography emphasizing the relations between genetics and experimental embryology. This identified the origin of Evo-devo tools (developmental genetics) but missed the source of its problem agenda. The structure of developmental genetic explanations of innovations and novelties is compared and contrasted with those of other disciplinary approaches, past and present. Applying the tool of conceptual clusters to these explanations reveals a unique form of conceptual change over the past five decades: a change in the causal and evidential concepts appealed to in explanations. Specification of the criteria of explanatory adequacy for the problem agenda of innovation and novelty indicates that Evo-devo qua disciplinary synthesis requires more attention to the construction of integrated explanations from its constituent disciplines besides developmental genetics. A model for explanations integrating multiple disciplinary contributions is provided. The phylogenetic approach to philosophy of science utilized in this study is relevant to philosophical studies of other sciences and meets numerous criteria of adequacy for analyses of conceptual change.