Athena Aktipis

The Evolutionary Studies (EvoS) program has arranged for Dr. Athena Aktipis, Associate Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University, to deliver two live zoom lectures at Binghamton University on Monday, March 15 at 3 PM and at 5:15 PM EST.  Information about Dr. Aktipis’ research and both talks is provided below.

Speaker Bio:

Athena Aktipis ( is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University and co-director of the Human Generosity Project, the first large-scale transdisciplinary project to investigate the interrelationship between biological and cultural influences on human generosity. Professor Aktipis also works on cooperation and conflict in biological systems including cancer evolution and the human microbiome. She is a cooperation theorist, social psychologist, theoretical evolutionary biologist, and cancer biologist who now works at the intersection of these fields. 

Dr. Aktipis is also the co-founder and director of Human and Social Evolution at the Center for Evolution and Cancer at the University of California, San Francisco.

Title: The Evolution of Zombification

Date: Monday, March 15

Time: 3:00 PM

Zoom link:


Zombies are more than just the stuff of science fiction, they are bonafide biological beings inhabiting every branch of the tree of life, us included. From microbes to microchimeric cells, our bodies and brains seem to be vulnerable to influences from many forces that are not - genetically speaking - us. In this informal discussion, we will talk about the evolutionary biology behind zombification and how zombification shapes who we are as humans as well as our day-to-day decision making. I will also offer some insights from cooperation theory on modern problems of zombification, including the challenges many of us face as we are zombified by smartphones and electronic media. Bring your favorite examples of zombification and best tips for avoiding zombification - or for how to stop worrying and learn to love the zomb.

Title: The Cheating Cell: How cancer evolves inside us and how we can keep it under control

Date: Monday, March 15

Time: 5:15 PM

Zoom Link:


Cancer began at the dawn of multicellular life. It arises from cheating in the cellular cooperation that usually defines multicellularity: division of labor, restrictions of cellular proliferation and resources use, controls on cell death and more. Because cancer arises from a breakdown of multicellular cooperation, this means that humans are not alone in their struggle with cancer; cancer affects all multicellular life forms from humans to elephants and from coral to cacti. Multicellular life has evolved to keep cancer under control, through mechanisms like the gene TP53, which detects cellular cheating and responds by halting the cell cycle or initiating apoptosis to protect the organism. Treating cancer effectively also requires an understanding of the evolutionary processes among cells within the body. Cancer cells evolve to overproliferate and overconsume resources inside the body. They also evolve resistance when cancer is treated aggressively. By using an evolutionarily informed approach to treatment we can transform cancer from being a disease that threatens our lives to one we can live with, as our multicellular ancestors have for millions of years.