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UBC scientist awarded $500,000 no-strings-attached fellowship


Chicago, IL – Sarah Otto, a theoretical biologist at the University of British Columbia (UBC), has been named a MacArthur Fellow for 2011 by the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation. She is one of 22 fellows named by the foundation this year.

Dr Otto’s research focuses on fundamental questions of population genetics and evolution.

In a series of studies, she and colleagues have developed models that resolve long-standing conceptual questions regarding the evolutionary benefits of sexual reproduction and allow for empirical investigation of a wide variety of related phenomena, such as the ecological structure and conditions that favor sexual over asexual reproduction, the ratio of males and females in a species, the duration of haploid and diploid phases in species’ life cycles, and the role of sexual reproduction in host-parasite coevolution.

She received a PhD (1992) from Stanford University. She joined the faculty at UBC in 1995 as an assistant professor of zoology and is currently a professor in the Department of Zoology and director of the Biodiversity Research Centre. She is the co-author of A Biologist’s Guide to Mathematical Modeling in Ecology and Evolution (2007), and her scientific articles have appeared in such journals as Science, Nature, PNAS, and Evolution.

The other fellows this year include an architect, a sports medicine researcher, a cellist, a developmental biologist, a radio producer, a neurologist, a conservator, a poet, a technologist, and a public historian. All were selected for their creativity, originality, and potential to make important contributions in the future.

Each recipient learned, through a phone call out of the blue from the foundation, that they will receive US$500,000 in no-strings-attached support over the next five years. MacArthur Fellowships come without stipulations or reporting requirements and offer the recipients unprecedented freedom and opportunity to reflect, create, and explore.