Hildegard Uecker




I recently moved to the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology (website coming soon).

Research interests

Evolution and Medicine

What drives the rapid evolution and spread of antibiotic resistance? How can we slow it down? I am developing within-host and between-host models to understand how antibiotics are best used at the individual and at the population levels, given the risk of resistance.

Clinically relevant antibiotic resistance is often encoded on plasmids. Plasmids are extra-chromosomal DNA elements that are transmitted vertically to the daughter cells and transferred vertically from plasmid-carrying to plasmid-free cells. This horizontal gene transfer is also possible between different species, facilitating the spread of antibiotic resistance genes. I am particularly interested in modeling the evolution and spread of plasmid-borne antibiotic resistance.

Evolution and Ecology

Theoretical models in population genetics usually make simplifying assumptions about the underlying ecology. However, the ecological characteristics of an environment often have a strong influence on the genetic evolution of a population. I am interested in relaxing some of these assumptions so that we may situate our population genetic models in more realistic ecological settings.

A focus of my research has been on models of evolutionary rescue, where evolution and ecology are inherently intertwined. Environmental change, if severe, can drive a population extinct unless the population succeeds in adapting to the new conditions fast enough (“evolutionary rescue”). With colleagues, I investigated how genetic and environmental factors such as recombination, selfing, population structure, or competition among individuals influence the probability of population survival.


  • since 2017: Research group leader, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Plön
  • 2015 - 2017: Postdoc at the Institute of Integrative Biology, ETH Zurich
  • 10/2013 - 09/2015: Postdoc, IST Austria
  • 07/2013: Dr. rer. nat., Biomathematics, University of Vienna (Title of the PhD thesis: Fate and fortuity: Branching process models for the establishment and fixation of beneficial alleles)
  • 01/2009 - 07/2013: PhD candidate at the University of Vienna (Advisor: Joachim Hermisson)
  • 04/2011 - 07/2011: Short-term visitor at the University of British Columbia, Canada (Advisor: Sarah P. Otto)
  • 04/2008: Diploma degree in Physics (Master's equivalent)
  • 10/2002 - 04/2008: Studies of Physics, Mathematics, and Philosophy at the Universities of Göttingen, Germany, and Caen Basse-Normandie, France


  • Uecker H. and Bonhoeffer S. (2017). "Modeling antimicrobial cycling and mixing: Differences arising from an individual-based versus a population-based perspective." Mathematical Biosciences 294: 85--91.
  • Tepekule B., Uecker H., Derungs I., Frenoy A., Bonhoeffer S. (2017). "Modeling antibiotic treatment in hospitals: A systematic approach shows benefits of combination therapy over cycling, mixing, and mono-drug therapies." PLoS Computational Biology 13(9): e1005745.
  • Uecker H. (2017). "Evolutionary rescue in randomly mating, selfing, and clonal population." Evolution 71: 845-858.
  • Uecker H. and Hermisson J. (2016). "The role of recombination in evolutionary rescue." Genetics 202: 1-12 (doi).
  • Uecker H., Setter D., Hermisson J. (2015). "Adaptive gene introgression after secondary contact." Journal of Mathematical Biology 70: 1523-1580 (doi).
  • Uecker H., Otto S.P., Hermisson J. (2014). "Evolutionary rescue in structured populations." The American Naturalist 183: E17-E35.(doi)
  • Uecker H. and Hermisson J. (2011). "On the fixation process of a beneficial mutation in a variable environment." Genetics 188: 915-930. (doi)
  • Uecker H., Kranz W.T., Aspelmeier T., Zippelius A. (2009). "Partitioning of energy in highly polydisperse granular gases." Phys. Rev. E 80: 041303.