John Hawkins


I recently completed my Ph.D. in computational and applied mathematics at the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences in the The University of Texas at Austin, where I was supervised by William H. Press and Ilya J. Finkelstein. I am now starting a postdoctoral fellowship position with Oliver Stegle at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ, Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum) in Heidelberg, Germany.

I was awarded the Computational Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Fellowship for my studies at the Oden Institute, where I obtained my Masters and Ph.D. degrees. I previously earned a B.S. in Mathematics, a B.S.E in Mechanical Engineering, and a B.A. in Humanities at Walla Walla University in Walla Walla, Washington.

My research is centered around developing high-throughput methods and results in molecular and integrative biology. The gold rush in molecular and integrative biology for exponentially improved insights and methods is in full swing, and I love being a part of it. My specialty is using computational and mathematical techniques to extract insight from large data sets and design better experiments, and I have also done a small amount of bench work. My current research is in developing novel techniques for characterizing the CRISPR family of proteins, with the long-term goal of helping to make gene-editing techniques safe for clinical use. Along the way I also derived and designed state of the art indel-correcting DNA barcodes and performed one of the largest-scale phylogenetic and positive selection analyses of bats. For these projects I have used various mathematical and computational methods, including mathematical model development, Fourier methods, non-linear optimization, finite field linear algebra, machine learning, visualization, phylogenetic analysis, positive selection analysis, and algorithmic development in high-dimensional spaces. Learn more details about my research here.

When I’m not doing research, my favorite thing in the world is to go see the world. I love travelling, learning languages, and meeting people. Closer to home, nothing beats weekend BBQ’s with friends in the back yard. I also love listening to podcasts and audiobooks while going for walks. Shout out to 99 Percent Invisible, More Perfect by RadioLab, and the Harry Potter books as read by Stephen Fry.