Joanna Monti-Masel (also known as Joanna Masel) is an American theoretical evolutionary biologist. She is (2017) a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona. She studies the question of evolvability, namely, why evolution works given that mutations to working systems will usually be detrimental to their function.[1]

Early lifeEdit

Masel was raised in Melbourne, Australia.[2] She was educated at the University of Melbourne, taking her B.Sc. in 1996. She completed her D.Phil in zoology at the University of Oxford in 2001. She went to Stanford University as a researcher before moving to the University of Arizona in 2004.[1]


Masel has published at least 17 peer-reviewed papers.[a][1] In 2013 she received a research grant from the John Templeton Foundation to study how and where new genes arise.[4] She runs a theoretical group in the University of Arizona's Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department where she investigates aspects of evolvability.[5]

Masel argues that the conventional account of the origin of new genes, namely that they are commonly duplicated from old genes and then evolve to diverge from them, is a chicken and egg explanation, since a functional gene would have to exist before a new function could evolve. She suggests instead that new genes are born continually from non-coding DNA, a form of preadaptation.[6][7]


  • Bypass Wall Street: A Biologist's Guide to the Rat Race, Perforce Publishing, 2016

Awards and distinctionsEdit


  1. ^ By 2017, her papers had been cited at least 2539 times, with an h-index of 24 and an i10-index of 34. The 2004 paper "Transplanted human fetal neural stem cells survive, migrate, and differentiate in ischemic rat cerebral cortex" which she co-authored had been cited 637 times.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Dr. Joanna Masel". University of Arizona. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  2. ^ "Profile with Joanna Masel". The Rhodes Project. 2013.
  3. ^ "Joanna Masel". Google Scholar. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
  4. ^ Littin, Shelley (22 October 2013). "UA Biologists Awarded John Templeton Foundation Grants for Research on Genetics, Diversity of Life". University of Arizona.
  5. ^ "Joanna Masel. Principal Investigator". University of Arizona. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  6. ^ Masel, Joanna (24 April 2017). "Behind the Paper: De novo gene birth". Nature Ecology and Evolution.
  7. ^ Wilson, Benjamin A.; Foy, Scott G.; Neme, Rafik; Masel, Joanna (2017). "Young genes are highly disordered as predicted by the preadaptation hypothesis of de novo gene birth". Nature Ecology & Evolution. 1 (6): 0146–146. doi:10.1038/s41559-017-0146. hdl:10150/627822. PMC 5476217. PMID 28642936.