New Zealander becomes Fellow of the Royal Society

An Honorary Professor at the University of Auckland has been elected to the Royal Society of London.

Professor Bruce Weir

It is a significant honour for a Kiwi who has spent most of his career in the United States but has maintained strong ties with New Zealand.

Professor Bruce Weir is an Honorary Professor in the University’s Department of Statistics but is mostly based in the United States where he is a Professor of Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Genome Sciences at the University of Washington Schools of Public Health and Medicine.

Born in Christchurch, he attended Shirley Boys’ High School and the University of Canterbury before obtaining his PhD from North Carolina State University in statistics and genetics. He returned to New Zealand and lectured at Massey University but returned to North Carolina in 1976.

He is a statistical geneticist who has developed and applied statistics theory to predict and quantify variation at genetic loci between individuals and between populations. His methods are used across multiple disciplines to characterise the structure of natural populations, to interpret matching DNA forensic profiles, and to locate human disease genes.

He directs the Summer Institute in Statistical Genetics at North Carolina State, a program he founded 25 years ago and which has trained thousands of researchers worldwide. He authored the textbook “Genetic Data Analysis” and, with the rise of DNA evidence in courts around the world, continues to train a growing number of forensic geneticists.

He was chosen as an expert witnesses in the O J Simpson trial because his work in DNA analysis was considered pioneering at the time.

He is currently working with Professors James Curran and John Buckleton in the Department of Statistics at the University of Auckland on statistical underpinnings for the interpretation of forensic DNA evidence. He also works with Professor Cristin Print in Molecular Medicine and Pathology at the University’s School of Medicine on the best ways to characterise genetic relatedness among Maori participants in the Rakeiora Project of Genomics Aotearoa.

Professor Weir was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 1998, and is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Statistical Association.

The Royal Society is one of the oldest and most prestigious science organisations with a number of New Zealanders elected fellows including Professor Sir Peter Gluckman of the University of Auckland and Centre for Informed Futures, and Professor Dame Margaret Brimble of the University of Auckland and the Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery.

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