Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 


Professor recognised for his work about evolution of life

Canterbury professor recognised for his work about the evolution of life

July 14, 2014

University of Canterbury’s Professor Mike Steel, who is using mathematics to help biologists discover more about the evolution of life, has been recognised for his work with the university’s Research Medal.

Professor Steel is best known for his leading work in phylogenetics, or the science of reconstructing evolutionary trees and networks from genetic data. He says his research methods are used every day to study how different strains of bacteria and viruses like influenza and hepatitis are related to each other.

``They’re also used to help figure out where some newly discovered organism fits in the tree of life, or how much biodiversity is at risk from current high levels of extinction.

``Phylogenetic techniques are also starting to be applied in medical research to reconstruct the tree of cell divisions in a tumor, and in linguistics the methods are used to understand how languages developed and diverged.

``Mathematics is really essential since it gives a way of systematically exploring the huge space of possible evolutionary scenarios. Since evolution is a random process, probability models play an important role” he says.

More recently, Professor Steel has been working on models of earliest life, using mathematics and computing in new ways to investigate networks.

His research is attracting wide international interest and has led to collaborations with leaders in the field of origin of life research. The algorithms developed have also been recently applied to study metabolic pathways in bacteria.

In a light-hearted approach, Professor Steel has also given away cash prizes to help solve solutions. In the last decade he has set many mathematical challenges with $US100 for each correct solution.

``The hardest challenge took a team of three smart guys from Berkeley and Massachusetts Institute of Technology many months to find a correct proof – but eventually they did.

``The reward is really much greater than $US100 as each one of the solved questions has always led to a published paper by the solver, sometimes in a high profile journal like the Science magazine.

Professor Steel was recently named as one of four principal investigators to win a $695,000 grant for a three-year research project, Terraces, Large Trees and Trait Evolution, funded by the US-based National Science Foundation.

He is director of the Biomathematics Research Centre, hosted within Canterbury’s School of Mathematics and Statistics. He is deputy director of the Allan Wilson Centre, and a fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Between his MSc and PhD he briefly enjoyed a quite different career – completing a journalism diploma at the University of Canterbury before working as police reporter on a national Sunday newspaper.

ends

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Bad Day For Rope: Donaghys Job Losses Another Blow To Dunedin

The loss of 30 jobs from Donaghys rope and twine factory is yet another blow to the people and economy of Dunedin, says Dunedin South Labour MP Clare Curran. More>>

ALSO:

Oil: 2014 New Zealand Petroleum Summit

Simon Bridges: Our abundance of energy and minerals resources provides us with unique opportunities to build the New Zealand economy.

Over the past three years the Government has made significant changes to how the sector is regulated. More>>

ALSO:

WWF Report: Solutions In Reach; World Biodiversity Suffers Major Decline

Global wildlife populations have declined by more than half in just 40 years as measured in WWF's Living Planet Report 2014. Wildlife's continued decline highlights the need for sustainable solutions to heal the planet... More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Business: NZ Dollar Catches Breath After "Goldilocks" Slump

The New Zealand dollar edged up following its dramatic slump yesterday after the Reserve Bank confirmed speculation it intervened in the currency market last month and PM John Key suggested a “Goldilocks” level far lower than at present. More>>

ALSO:

Biosecurity: Kiwifruit Claim To Hold Officials Accountable For Psa

Kiwifruit growers have joined forces to hold Biosecurity NZ accountable in the courts for its negligence in allowing 2010’s Psa outbreak that devastated New Zealand’s kiwifruit industry and exports. Foundation claimants representing well ... More>>

ALSO:

Poison: Anglers Advised Not To Eat Trout In 1080 Areas

With the fishing season opening in just a few days (1 October 2014), anglers are being warned by the Department of Conservation(DOC) not to eat trout from pristine backcountry waters and their downstream catchments, where the department is conducting 1080 poisoning operations. More>>.

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
Computer Power Plus

Standards New Zealand

Standards New Zealand

Mosh Social Media
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sci-Tech
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news