Dr Shevarl Macnamara

Shevarl MacNamara

Dr Shevarl MacNamara

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Fulbright Postdoctoral Scholar

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“Recent advances in single molecule technologies will soon make DNA sequencing more personal and more affordable than ever but exploring the masses of data these technologies generate is a challenge we have to face if we are to realise their true potential to transform medicine and our understanding of health and disease. It's a great challenge and mathematics can help.”

Dr Shevarl MacNamara, a Postdoctoral Research Assistant, with the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at The University of Queensland, has won a 2010 Fulbright Postdoctoral Scholarship to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Shev’s research will look at the application of mathematical and computational principles to biology.

“The potential of computational mathematics to make contributions is sometimes underestimated but if you look just a little beneath the surface, you may find it in unexpected places. Even in the seemingly ordinary, curious minds have discovered interesting mathematics to help us understand. From things as commonplace as the way a piece of paper crumples to the grander scales of climate modelling, computational approaches sometimes reveal surprises.”

“My research involves bringing together two different fields, as well as a new technology, which is a bit like looking at chemistry one molecule at a time,” Shev said.

“Previously we could only study chemistry by ensemble averaging of billions of molecules but emerging technologies such as quantum dots are now allowing us to see important processes, such as the way a single molecule can bind to our DNA to turn a nearby gene on or off, or the way our immune system can detect a single molecule of a virus' fingerprint.”

“Master equations are perhaps better known in statistical physics but the same mathematical theory can be applied to certain aspects of biology. It is especially well-suited to the purpose of modeling single molecules and thus also to enhancing related technologies, for example to make DNA sequencing faster, more accurate or cheaper.”

Professor Gil Strang at The MIT Department of Mathematics will be the mentor for this project. As a computational mathematician his pedagogy is world renowned. “Continuing my studies in that department will be both humbling and inspiring and I am grateful to have been entrusted with this fantastic opportunity.”

Shev has a PhD in Mathematics from The University of Queensland and a BSc First Class Honours, Mathematics from The Australian National University and has completed a postdoc at Oxford. In addition to his academic qualifications he plays indoor cricket, enjoys cycling the Green Bridge over the Brisbane river, bush walking and exploring Australia’s natural landscapes.