Leading computational biologist awarded Fellowship

Professor Alexei Drummond from the University of Auckland has been awarded a James Cook Research Fellowship by the Royal Society Te Apārangi.

Professor Alexei Drummond

Professor Drummond is an evolutionary biologist and Director of the Centre for Computational Evolution at the University, where his work centres on probabilistic models of molecular evolution, infectious disease modelling and population genetics.

His work is at the forefront of scientific computing and data science that is transforming the way scientists can use the vast amount of data that has increased exponentially over the last decade.

His world-leading research has already transformed the way biologists use genetic data. He co-wrote the open source BEAST software which has become a leading tool to investigate how viruses evolve and has significantly improved our understanding of the epidemic spread of human disease.

He is co-founder of the company Biomatters Ltd which develops software for pharmaceutical companies and that is used for data management and visualisation of problems in genetics, ancestry, ecology, conservation, population studies and infectious disease.

Professor Drummond taught himself to code at the age of eight when his father bought him an old Commodore 64 computer. He graduated from the University of Auckland with a BSc in computer science and biology in 1996, followed by a PhD which he completed in 2002.

He then moved to the UK where he did three years’ post-doctoral work in the Department of Statistics and the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford. It was here that he completed work on the BEAST software with Andrew Rambaut, software that has been cited in thousands of studies worldwide.

In 2016, he became the youngest-ever Fellow of the Royal Society Te Apārangi. He has been awarded a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship, the Research Medal from the New Zealand Association of Scientists and the Hamilton Memorial Prize, also from the Royal Society.

A keen hiker, rock climber and trail runner, he was North and South magazine’s New Zealander of the Year in 2011.

The James Cook Research Fellowships, administered by the Royal Society Te Apārangi on behalf of the New Zealand Government, are awarded to researchers who have achieved national and international recognition in their field. The Fellowships come with $100,000 in funding.

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