On Monday, May 8, University of Sydney biology Professor Edward Holmes was elected as a Fellow of The Royal Society, a prestigious group of highly successful science, medicine and technology academics from the Commonwealth and United Kingdom.
Current Fellows of the society include Stephen Hawking and Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the Internet), and Alan Turing, Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton were admitted in the past.
Holmes’ election to the Society involved a peer-review process that focuses on electing those who have achieved excellence within the science field and have contributed to developing natural knowledge.
“I’m known for explaining how viruses evolve and working out exactly how they do what they do,” Holmes told Honi.
He has uncovered the origin and evolution of influenza, HIV and dengue, as well as their molecular
epidemiology, which means he discovered the environmental determinants behind the diseases.
Recently, he unveiled 1500 new viruses, including new families.
His research has also led to more accurate assessments of which viruses are more likely to come from within human populations, and understanding of the main mechanisms of virus evolution, species-to-species transmission and how viruses spread within new hosts.
Holmes is also a Fellow of the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Australian Academy of Science, and was awarded the Scientific Medal of the Zoological Society of London in 2003.
“It feels marvellous, really a great honour,” he said about his admission to the society.
According to Holmes, it is not something you aspire to, but it is great to be recognised by peers within the academic field, as becoming a Fellow is more like, “a career award … recognition of my 30 years dedicated to science.”
Vice Chancellor Michael Spence congratulated Holmes on his fellowship in a statement and said, “This is an extremely high and rare accolade, one that Professor Holmes absolutely deserves following a career devoted to understanding human diseases for the benefit of humankind”.
Holmes added, “[it] reflects the world-class medical science being performed at the University of Sydney.”