EAST LANSING, Mich. (WWJ/AP) – Michigan State University has been awarded $22.5 million by the National Science Foundation to continue evolution research, education and outreach.

The East Lansing school says funding announced this month supports the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action.

Since 2010, the center has brought together evolutionary biologists, computer scientists and engineers. Study areas include the evolution of disease, reducing the evolution of antibiotic resistance and predicting how populations of organisms respond to climate change.

The school says researchers involved in the center use so-called digital organisms — self-reproducing computer programs operating in a controlled computer environment — to explore evolutionary dynamics much more rapidly than studies in the lab or field.

“In the first five years, BEACON has changed the landscape of evolutionary computation, creating a set of multidisciplinary scientists making strong contributions in both biology and engineering,” said BEACON Director Erik Goodman, in a media release. “The second five years promises new advances in taking inspiration from the algorithmic nature of the evolutionary process to deliver robust solutions to some of the most-difficult problems in both science and industry.”

“Researchers are drawn to BEACON because the frequent exchange of ideas makes it worthwhile for their research, energizing everyone involves,” he said. “NSF’s renewal of BEACON will enable continuing breakthroughs in our understanding and harnessing of evolution in action.”

BEACON stands for “Bio/Computational Evolution in Action CONsortium.” The Michigan State-based center has a number of partners across the U.S., including the University of Idaho, North Carolina A&T State University, University of Texas at Austin and University of Washington.

The BEACON Center is one of 14 National Science Foundation Science and Technology Centers.

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