Participants

Walter Fontana is a professor of systems biology at Harvard Medical School and a member of the external faculty of the Santa Fe Institute (SFI). He approaches the fundamental problem of the integration and evolvability of information at the molecular level from a theoretical perspective and, from an experimental perspective, the equally fundamental problem of the disintegration of information with a special focus on aging in C. elegans, a roundworm that is considered a model organism for the investigation of animal development. He has collaborated with computer scientists and other researchers to design a computational environment that represents biological knowledge, as it pertains to signaling, in an effort to meet the challenge of reasoning about facts that are rapidly evolving while remaining highly fragmented across research communities. Dr. Fontana is a graduate of the University of Vienna, where he studied biochemistry as an undergraduate and went on to take a Ph.D. in theoretical chemistry, with highest honors, in 1987. He was a postdoctoral fellow in the Theoretical Division and Center for Nonlinear Studies at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and SFI, a visiting scientist at the Interval Research Corporation in Palo Alto, California, and a research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria, before returning to the University of Vienna as an assistant professor in its Institute for Theoretical Chemistry in 1994. Appointed an associate professor three years later, he also worked at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton as a member of the Program in Theoretical Biology. He went to SFI as a research professor in 1998, a post he held until joining the Harvard Medical School faculty in 2004. Dr. Fontana is the author of some fifty papers published in scientific journals and holds three patents.