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Swamidass named AAAS fellow

Recognized for contributions to computational biology, outreach to faith communities

by Tamara BhandariJanuary 31, 2023

Henson Creative Photography

S. Joshua Swamidass, MD, PhD, an associate professor of pathology & immunology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, is among 505 new fellows named by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the Science family of journals.

Swamidass is being 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 also is being recognized for extraordinary public outreach promoting an understanding of science among communities of faith.

Swamidass has developed artificial intelligence algorithms to investigate how drugs are processed in the body and demonstrated that such processing plays a key role in the safety, efficacy and dose of medicines. Recently, in a study of de-identified electronic health records, he used machine learning to identify combinations of drugs that can cause liver problems when used together. Drug-drug interactions are a major cause of adverse events in people taking multiple medications, but it is challenging to identify which combinations of the more than 20,000 available prescription drugs are harmful.

His public outreach advances understanding of human evolution and of race and racism within communities of faith. His 2019 book, “The Genealogical Adam and Eve,” proposes a reading of the biblical story of Adam and Eve that is consistent with evolutionary science. The book also explains 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 disproven ideas about inherent racial differences.

He also served as an adviser for the exhibit “Scripture and Science: Our Universe, Ourselves, Our Place” at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. The exhibit, which runs through January 2024, explores the Bible’s role in the historical relationship between science and religion.

Swamidass is also an associate professor of biomedical engineering and of computer science & engineering at the university’s McKelvey School of Engineering. He earned his bachelor’s, master’s, medical and doctoral degrees from the University of California, Irvine. He joined the School of Medicine faculty in 2010.

About Washington University School of Medicine

WashU Medicine is a global leader in academic medicine, including biomedical research, patient care and educational programs with 2,700 faculty. Its National Institutes of Health (NIH) research funding portfolio is the fourth largest among U.S. medical schools, has grown 54% in the last five years, and, together with institutional investment, WashU Medicine commits well over $1 billion annually to basic and clinical research innovation and training. Its faculty practice is consistently within the top five in the country, with more than 1,790 faculty physicians practicing at over 60 locations and who are also the medical staffs of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals of BJC HealthCare. WashU Medicine has a storied history in MD/PhD training, recently dedicated $100 million to scholarships and curriculum renewal for its medical students, and is home to top-notch training programs in every medical subspecialty as well as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and audiology and communications sciences.

Tamara covers infectious diseases, molecular microbiology, neurology, neuroscience, surgery, the Institute for Informatics, the Division of Physician-Scientists and the MSTP program. She holds a double bachelor's degree in molecular biophysics & biochemistry and in sociology from Yale University, a master's in public health from the University of California, Berkeley, and a PhD in biomedical science from the University of California, San Diego. She joined WashU Medicine Marketing & Communications in 2016. She has received three Robert G. Fenley writing awards from the American Association of Medical Colleges: a bronze in 2020 for "Mind’s quality control center found in long-ignored brain area," a silver in 2022 for "Mice with hallucination-like behaviors reveal insight into psychotic illness," and a bronze in 2023 for "Race of people given Alzheimer’s blood tests may affect interpretation of results." Since January of 2024, Tamara has been writing under the name Tamara Schneider.