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Dr. Hurford wins R.A. Fisher Prize
Dr. Amy Hurford

The R. A. Fisher Prize is awarded annually by the Society for the Study of Evolution for an outstanding Ph.D. dissertation paper published in the journal Evolution during a given calendar year.

This prize pays tribute to one of the most distinguished evolutionists of the 20th Century, Sir Ronald Fisher, who with JBS Haldane and Sewall Wright, developed theoretical population genetics and established its central position within evolutionary biology.  Fisher’s interests ranged widely, but placed particular emphasis on the dynamics of mutation and selection and how these contribute to adaptation.

This year's Fisher Prize is awarded to Dr. Amy Hurford for her paper: Hurford, A. and T. Day. 2013.Immune evasion and the evolution of molecular mimicry in parasites. Evolution 67(10): 2889-2904.

Hurford explored a variety of hypotheses about the coevolution of vertebrate immune systems and pathogens, using mathematical models. One of her primary goals was to understand the evolutionary origins of infection-induced autoimmune disorders. She developed mathematical models using techniques from dynamical systems and game theory to better understand the conditions under which we might expect pathogens to evolve molecular mimicry. She and her coauthor analyzed the patterns of molecular mimicry that are expected under two hypotheses regarding molecular mimicry by parasites. One of their findings was that the highest risk of autoimmunity comes from parasites that display intermediate levels of mimicry. Interestingly, and highly relevantly, they also explored the consequences of different medical interventions on the evolution of mimicry and the incidence of autoimmunity.

Dr. Hurford received her Ph.D. in 2011 from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Queens University, where he was advised by Dr. Troy Day. Following postdoctoral appointments at York University and the University of Toronto, she began a faculty position at Memorial University of Newfoundland.


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Apr 7th, 2014

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