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John McSweeney : A Nonuniform Stochastic Coalescent Process with applications to Biology and Computer Science



Viewed forwards in time, a population reproducing according to some random mechanism can be thought of as a branching process. What if it is viewed backwards? We can take a sample of individuals from the current generation and trace their genealogy backwards, and for instance find their most recent common ancestor; this is known as a coalescent process. If we know a population's random mating process, but have no actual data as to what the phylogenetic tree looks like, how do we derive the distribution of the time until its most recent common ancestor? I will discuss a variant on the classical Wright-Fisher reproductive model and deduce some parameter thresholds for emergence of different qualitative features of the tree. An isomorphic problem may also be useful in computer science for bounding the running time of certain random sampling algorithms.

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