UC mathematician first New Zealander to be elected to international bioinformatics society
15 February 2018
University of Canterbury Distinguished Professor Mike Steel has been elected as a distinguished Fellow of the International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB).
Dist Prof Steel’s main research focus is phylogenetics, which uses mathematics to come up with better ways of reconstructing evolutionary relationships between species based on genetic data. His research interests are applications of discrete mathematics (combinatorics, graph theory) and probability theory to contemporary problems in biology.
Dist Prof Steel’s citation is for “outstanding contributions to mathematical and computational phylogenetics, and for service to the academic evolutionary biology research community”.
The ISCB is a large international body that runs leading bioinformatics conferences and is active in mainstream journals such as Bioinformatics. Fellowships are awarded for “outstanding contributions to the fields of computational biology and bioinformatics”.
Since 2010, only around eight people have been elected each year, based on nominations by ISCB members and peer review. With nearly all ISCB Fellows based in North America, Europe or Asia, Dist Prof Steel appears to be the first New Zealander to receive this award and possibly the first Fellow elected from the Southern Hemisphere. He will be part of the ISCB Fellow class that increases now to 67 members.
Dist Prof Steel, who won the 2014 UC Research Medal for leading work in phylogenetics and in autocatalytic networks, is director of the Biomathematics Research Centre hosted within UC’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics and is a Fellow of the Royal Society Te Apārangi.
He will be recognised for his contributions to computational biology and bioinformatics at the ISCB’s annual international conference on Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology (ISMB) in Chicago, Illinois, 6-8 July, 2018.
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