John Pepper

External Professor

John Pepper is a theoretical and evolutionary biologist whose research interests focus on multilevel selection theory and its applications. Multilevel selection theory is a useful tool for studying the evolution of cooperation and conflict at various levels of biological organization. These include intra-genomic conflict, cancer, aging and senescence, altruism, social cooperation, and transitions in individuality. In his current position at the National Cancer Institute, he focuses on bringing theory to bear on problems in cancer biology and especially cancer prevention. Cancer is a breakdown of cooperation among somatic cells, and the evolution of antisocial cell behaviors through lower-level selection among cells, which is only partially blocked by a history of higher-level selection among individuals.

As a biologist in the Division of Cancer Prevention at the National Cancer Institute, Pepper uses the tools of computational and systems biology to better understand the biological processes underlying cancer, and to design better interventions for cancer prevention.

His 43 peer-reviewed publications have been cited an average of 65 times each (ISI h-index = 24). Some of these papers are available at:

Primary Institution: National Cancer Institute

Role/Title: Biologist

Topics of Interest: Agent-based Modeling - Behavior - Biology - Evolution - Health - Social Science - Evolution of Cooperation and Conflict

Other Affiliations and Institutions: Faculty Affiliate, Center for Social Dynamics and Complexity, Arizona State U.; Faculty Affiliate, Center for Evolution and Cancer, U. of CA at San Francisco.

How SFI changes your mind: It re-ignites my intellectual curiosity and creativity

When and how you first got involved with SFI: A mentor with an SFI affiliation suggested I apply for a postdoc, which I held from 1999-2002.

Favorite Book: "Governing the Commons", by Elinor Ostrom

Favorite Film: Milagro Beanfield War