Friday, September 11, 2009

Professor R. Wayne Davies

Welcome to Wayne Davies who joins us as an Honorary Professor.
Wayne has a unique combination of international level scientific achievement with extensive business experience in the field of biotechnology. After studying medicine at Cambridge he was caught up in the molecular biology revolution and switched to pure science, working with Sydney Brenner in Cambridge, Bill Dove in Madison and Benno Muller-Hill in Cologne before going solo. Work on gene regulation and integration of lambda bacteriophage, including publication of the integration site sequence, was followed by a move into eukaryotes and a series of key contributions to molecular biology of filamentous fungal systems, including the first transfection method and mitochondrial genome structure. His group discovered fungal self-splicing introns, and he published the first secondary structure of a ribozyme, and the internal guide sequence model for splice-site selection, which also explained how the Tetrahymena intron (for the discovery of which Tom Cech got a Nobel) actually worked. For this work he was elected a member of EMBO, and then moved into the biotech industry as Vice-President for Science of Canada’s then flagship biotechnology company, Allelix Biopharmaceuticals, where he managed a staff of 70 scientists for six years. Academic work since returning to the UK to become Professor of Biotechnology at the University of Glasgow has focussed on molecular neuroscience (neurodegeneration mechanisms, CNS myelin studies) and more recently on tissue ageing and the discovery with Dr. Paul Shiels of a new type of repair stimulator cell with real therapeutic potential for diabetes and other organ-damage diseases.
Wayne has increasingly focussed on applied science, licensing opportunities and spin-out companies. With Kim Kaiser and Alun Davies he spun out Neuropa Ltd. and ran that company as CEO for 5 years. He was then seconded as CEO to UmanGenomics AB of Umeå, Sweden for two years. In these roles he had hands-on experience of biotechnology company management, Board membership, multi-round fundraising from venture capital and local Angel sources and interaction with major pharmaceutical companies. He recently found US investors to form Pathfinder LLC to exploit the potential of repair-stimulator cells.
His involvement with the University of Edinburgh and Informatics began when he joined with Douglas Armstrong to develop the Brainwave project into a commercial venture. This will result in the near future in the spinning out of Brainwave-Discovery Ltd., a company that provides custom assay development services for the pharmaceutical industry and will develop novel technology platforms for CNS drug discovery. As a result, Wayne expects to spend more time in Edinburgh, and is looking forward to providing any help to colleagues that is congruent with his experience, whether in mammalian neuroscience and stem cell biology or in company formation and development.

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For Alan Turing, a real apology for once

I had intended to mark this news with a post of my own. However, Geoff Pullum does it so much better that, with his permission, I just reproduce here Geoff's Language Log post.
In an age where many purported public apologies are just mealy-mouthed expressions of regret ("I'm sorry it all happened"), or grudging self-exculpatory conditionals ("If some people think I shouldn't have said it, I'm sorry they were upset"), it is good to see a genuine and direct apology for once, addressed (though more than half a century too late) to a man who deserved admiration, gratitude, and respect, but was instead hounded to death. The UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has released a statement regarding the treatment of Alan Turing in the early 1950s, and the operative words are:

on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan's work I am very proud to say: we're sorry, you deserved so much better.
That's how to say it (ignoring the punctuation error — the missing comma after work): not a bunch of evasive mumbling about how unfortunate it all was, but a simple "We're sorry."

Turing did indeed deserve so much better. He created modern theoretical computer science; opened fundamental new areas of mathematical logic; made very important contributions to other areas of mathematics (e.g., the technique known as Good-Turing frequency estimation in statistics); and most importantly, he gave up his academic work during the Second World War to work at Bletchley Park on the extremely difficult task of decrypting German communications encrypted with the Enigma machine. The Bletchley Park team did succeed, and thus the Royal Navy became able to read the content of all the Nazis' messages to U-boats in the North Atlantic. It was a crucial turning point in the war. But a mere seven years later, a young man shared Turing's bed for the night in Manchester, and later helped someone burgle the house, and Turing naively reported the theft to the police. The police reaction was to arrest Turing, because they guessed what had been going on. "Gross indecency" was the charge (it is the British legal euphemism for cocksucking). Turing had a choice between serving prison time or agreeing to chemical castration, a medicalized "cure" for his presumed abnormality. He bore the latter for two years and then took cyanide. The way British mid-20th-century sex law drove him to suicide was genuinely something for the country to be ashamed of. It was good to see the official apology (which hundreds of eminent scientists had asked the Prime Minister to express).
September 11, 2009 @ 4:47 am · Filed by Geoffrey K. Pullum

Professor Keith van Rijsbergen

Welcome to Keith van Rijsbergen who joins us as an Honorary Professor.
Keith van Rijsbergen was born in Holland in 1943. He was educated in Holland, Indonesia, Namibia and Australia. He took a degree in mathematics at the University of Western Australia. As a graduate he spent two years tutoring in mathematics while studying computer science. In 1972 he completed a Ph.D. in computer science at Cambridge University. After almost three years of lecturing in information retrieval and artificial intelligence at Monash University he returned to the Cambridge Computer Laboratory to hold a Royal Society Information Research Fellowship. In 1980 he was appointed to the chair of computer science at University College Dublin; from there he moved in 1986 to Glasgow University.
Since about 1969 his research has been devoted to information retrieval, covering both theoretical and experimental aspects. He has specified several theoretical models for IR and seen some of them from the specification and prototype stage through to production. His current research is concerned with the design of appropriate logics to model the flow of information. He has been involved in a number of EU projects and working groups on IR, including Fermi, Miro, Mira, Idomeneus, and more recently K‐space. He is a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, Royal Society of Edinburgh, IEE, BCS, and ACM. In 1993 he was appointed Editor‐in‐Chief of The Computer Journal, an appointment he held until 2000. He has served as a programme committee member and editorial board member of the major IR conferences and journals. He is the author of a well‐known book Information Retrieval, Butterworths, 1979. In 1999, together with Crestani and Lalmas,he published a book entitled "Information Retrieval: Uncertainty and Logics". His most recent book is The Geometry of Information Retrieval, CUP, 2004. Some of his research papers can be accessed at He was chairman of the most recent REA panel in Computer Science and Informatics. He is chairman of the panel for Computer Science and Informatics (PE6) for the European Research Council.