The School of Biological Sciences welcomes back expert in molecular evolution

10 May 2010

Dr Simon Ho has joined the School of Biological Sciences as Senior Lecturer in Bioinformatics.

Dr Ho, who completed his undergraduate degree with the School, returns to his alma mater with an impressive research record gained from an academic route via the University of Oxford and the Australian National University.

After seven years away from Sydney, completing a PhD and two postdoctoral Fellowships in molecular evolution, Dr Ho says he is excited to return to the School to contribute to research, and also to set up collaborations with other research groups within the Faculty of Science. "I'm so happy to be back in the School of Biological Sciences, which has a lot of active research in the fields of evolution and molecular biology. I'm really keen for the opportunity to collaborate with a new group of researchers who have new data sets for me to analyse and work with."

Dr Ho's research primarily concerns molecular evolution and phylogenetics. Using a combination of molecular biology, statistics, and computer science, Dr Ho analyses sequences of DNA to estimate evolutionary rates and timescales.

While most of his research falls under the broad category of bioinformatics, Dr Ho says it also encompasses the more traditional fields of zoology and palaeontology. "I've always been really interested in animals and the evolutionary paths taken by them. What I love about my research is it enables me to work on a variety of animals, from whales, to pigs to woolly mammoths."

Having conducted his PhD research with the Ancient Biomolecules Centre at the University of Oxford, Dr Ho has significant experience with ancient DNA, and has used bioinformatics to determine the molecular evolution of woolly mammoths, cave lions and aurochsen - the wild ancestor of our modern cow. "I am really interested in using my research to answer paleontological questions. I like the challenge of using ancient DNA, and the opportunity it brings in working with some of the biggest animals of the past 2 million years."

Dr Ho's research, in phylogenetic methods and their application, can be applied to a broad range of biological questions - from conservation genetics and estimating how populations will respond to climate change, to bio-medicine and determining the main factors causing the rise of virus populations. "What I do is fairly fundamental to many fields of biology, as many researchers who analyse DNA sequences will have a phylogenetic component to their studies," says Dr Ho, "so there is often an opportunity to collaborate with people working in that area."

As a Senior Lecturer, Dr Ho is also looking forward to working with the School's students. "I am giving some guest lectures and a practical in bioinformatics this year, and eventually hope to run my own course in evolution. One of the benefits of working in a high quality institution is the access to high quality students, who make for really rewarding teaching."

Contact: Carla Avolio

Phone: 02 9351 4543

Email: 2c15035c374219332c083d5b6b23350325231c7a32014c7e152f