Recognized for contributions to computational biology, outreach to religious communities
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S. Joshua Swamidass, MD, PhDassociate professor of pathology and immunology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, is among 505 new fellows nominated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general science society and publisher of the Science family of journals.
Swamidass is honored for his work in applying machine learning to chemical biology and medicine, with a particular focus on drug discovery and how drugs are processed in the body. He is also recognized for his extraordinary public outreach efforts in promoting an understanding of science among communities of faith.
Swamidass has developed artificial intelligence algorithms to study how drugs are processed in the body and has demonstrated that this processing plays a key role in drug safety, efficacy and dosage. Recently, in a study of anonymized electronic health records, he used machine learning to identify drug combinations that can cause liver problems when used together. Drug interactions are a major cause of adverse events in people taking multiple medications, but it’s difficult to identify which combinations of the over 20,000 prescription drugs available are harmful.
His public outreach advances understanding of human evolution and of race and racism within faith communities. His 2019 book, “Genealogical Adam and Eveoffers a reading of the biblical story of Adam and Eve that is consistent with the science of evolution. The book also explains the scientific problems with the theory of polygenesis, the debunked idea that different races of people arose independently in different parts of the world. This discredited theory contributes to systemic racism by articulating inaccurate and refuted ideas about inherent racial differences.
He was also an advisor for the “Scripture and Science: Our Universe, Ourselves, Our Place” exhibit at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. The exhibit, which runs through January 2024, explores the role of the Bible in the historical relationship between science and religion.
Swamidass is also an associate professor of biomedical engineering and computer science and engineering at the university’s McKelvey School of Engineering. He received his bachelor’s, master’s, medical and doctoral degrees from the University of California at Irvine. He joined the medical school in 2010.