Some of the key topics that spurred development of the field have been
- the evolution of enzyme function,
- the use of nucleic acid divergence as a "molecular clock" to study species divergence,
- and the origin of non-functional or junk DNA.
Recent advances in genomics, including whole-genome sequencing, high-throughput protein characterization, and bioinformatics have led to a dramatic increase in studies on the topic. In the 2000s, some of the active topics have been the role of gene duplication in the emergence of novel gene function, the extent of adaptive molecular evolution versus neutral drift, and the identification of molecular changes responsible for various human characteristics especially those pertaining to infection, disease, and cognition.