Guy Cooper

Guy Cooper

Junior Research Fellow in Biology



As an undergraduate, I studied physics at Sewanee: The University of the South, USA, receiving a BSc in 2010. I then switched fields, receiving an MSc in applied mathematics from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland in 2014. I then moved to Oxford in 2014 to begin a DPhil in Zoology at Balliol College. I have now taken up a position as a JRF at St John’s College, Oxford to continue my research on the evolution of division of labour.

Recent Publications

  • Cooper, G.A., Levin, S.R., Wild, G. & West, S.A. (2018) Modelling relatedness and demography in social evolution. Evolution Letters. 2, 260-271.
  • Cooper, G.A. & West, S.A. (2018) Division of labour and the evolution of extreme specialisation. Nature Ecology and Evolution.  2, 1161–1167.
  • Bruce, J.B., Cooper, G.A. Chabas, H., West, S.A., & Griffin, A.S. (2017). Cheating and resistance to cheating in natural populations of the bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens. Evolution, 71, 2484-2495.
  • West, S.A. & Cooper, G.A. (2016) Division of Labour in Microorganisms: An Evolutionary Perspective. Nature Reviews Microbiology 14, 11.

Research Interests

In my research, I use game theory and mathematics to study division of labour, which occurs when cooperating individuals specialise on distinct tasks. This social behaviour is found across the tree of life and at all levels of biological organisation, from the distinct castes of social insect societies to the different cell types within multicellular organisms (blood cells, muscle cells, nerve cells, etc.). When individuals in a group divide labour, they become more dependent on the activities of their social partners. This can entwine the genetic interests of the individuals in such a way that complex group adaptations may begin to evolve. Consequently, if we want to understand why some forms of life have become so complex, we need to understand why division of labour was favoured by natural selection to evolve, in some cases for some species but not for others.