Joshua Plotkin of the University of Pennsylvania has been named winner of the 2015 Akira Okubo Prize, awarded jointly by the international Society for Mathematical Biology and the Japanese Society for Mathematical Biology. The award committee granted the award with "great enthusiasm," noting that, "Plotkin's research achievements belie his young age."
The prize is given every other year, alternately to a senior scientist for lifetime achievement, and, as is the case this year, to a junior scientist younger than 40. The award honors scientists "for outstanding and innovative theoretical work, for establishing superb conceptual ideas, for solving tough theoretical problems and/or for uniting theory and data to advance biological science." Plotkin was judged to "amply satisfy" these criteria.
Plotkin is a professor with joint appointments in the Department of Biology in Penn Arts & Sciences and in the Department of Computer and Information Science in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. His research employs mathematics to address biological questions on topics as varied as language acquisition, DNA repair, distribution of tropical trees and social behavior. His theoretical work on the evolution of the influenza virus has important implications for public health, including vaccine design.
The Prize was created to honor the memory of Akira Okubo, a mathematician, ecologist and oceanographer. It comes with a cash prize and plaque. In addition, as an award winner, Plotkin will give two lectures this summer, one at the Society for Mathematical Biology Annual Conference in Atlanta this June and another at the Japanese Society for Mathematical Biology Annual Conference in Kyoto in August.