Spencer received his BA from Colby College, majoring in Biology and Art. After briefly teaching high school Chemistry, Spencer pursued a MS in Biology at American University working with the Smithsonian’s Vertebrate Zoology Collections. Spencer completed his PhD in Ecology and Evolution at Stony Brook University under Dr. Walt Eanes. Working along established lines, Spencer was first exposed to Experimental Population Genetics by studying the metabolic control of temperate adaptation in Drosophila melanogaster. Dr. Eanes also fostered Spencer’s early interests in chromosomal inversions, especially as they related to selfish sex chromosomes in various non-melanogaster Drosophilids. Spencer continued his study of selfish sex chromosomes in Drosophila pseudoobscura and Drosopihla persimilis as a postdoctoral researcher in the Phadnis Lab at University of Utah. Spencer joined the Hawley Lab in March 2021 and is developing mathematical models for female meiotic drive and recombination suppression associated with chromosomal inversions in Drosophila melanogaster.
Spencer works in Experimental Population Genetics studying the forces that govern population behavior through direct experimentation. Two of the strongest forces shaping genome evolution are recombination and segregation of chromosomes, making meiosis one of the most critical and exciting biological processes for evolutionary biology. Because chromosomal rearrangements can alter the normal pattern of recombination and segregation, Spencer focuses on inversions in Drosophila species as a model system to understand both the cytogenetic causes and evolutionary consequences of violating Mendel’s Laws.