Pioneering researcher in computational systems biology earns rare honor
Eberhard Voit, professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory and a researcher in the Petit Institute for Bioengneering and Bioscience, has been named a Society for Mathematical Biology (SMB) Fellow, one of the first in the organization’s history.
Not a bad honor for a guy whose entrance to biology was typically met with puzzled looks and scratched heads on the part of his associates.
“When I started using math and primitive computing to address biological questions – in the last millennium, mind you – very few of my colleagues saw any value in this combination,” says Voit, a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Systems Biology and principal investigator of the Laboratory for Biological Systems Analysis.
“Casual cocktail party conversations regarding my job tended to be very short indeed,” he adds. “Esteemed biologists in the know told me, ‘biology is too complicated to use math,’ and that they had ‘intimate knowledge’ that something like this would never fly.”
Instead, Voit became a pioneer in computational systems biology, an internationally respected, well-published scientist and author, teacher, mentor, and colleague, “and the epitome of an interdisciplinary thinker, researcher, and educator,” wrote one SMB colleague in a nomination letter for Voit. “He is in my opinion the paradigm of a Fellow in the Society of Mathematical Biology.”
Voit is one of only two new SMB Fellows worldwide in 2019, the other being Ramit Mehr of Bar-Ilan University in Israel, where she is a professor studying computational immunology.
The Society for Mathematical Biology Fellows Program honors members of the Society who are recognized by the scientific and scholarly community as distinguished contributors to the discipline. Fellows are nominated by Society members, one of whom wrote, “Eberhard is a true pioneer and world-renowned expert in the development and advancement of the field of mathematical systems analysis and its applications to complex phenomena in the field of biomedicine.”
Founded in 1973, SMB launched its fellows program in 2017, recognizing an inaugural group of 18 fellows – presidents of the society and the editors-in-chief of the society’s journal, Bulletin of Mathematical Biology. The goal is to select up to two fellows every other year,
Voit and Mehr will be recognized at the annual SMB Meeting, July in Montreal.
“It’s a very satisfying experience to see how much the field has changed for the better,” Voit said. “And being inducted as a Fellow of the Society of Mathematical Biology is the icing on the cake.”
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