About Rob

Robert Edwards – Biography

After receiving his Ph. D. from the University of Sussex, in England studying nitrogen regulation in bacteria, Dr. Edwards moved to the United States to continue his studies. He worked as a Post-Doctoral Researcher with Dr. Dieter Schifferli at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, understanding the mechanisms and regulation of virulence of enterotoxigenic E. coli, a leading cause of traveler’s diarrhea. Dr. Edwards then moved to the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign to work with Dr. Stanley Maloy on understanding the virulence of Salmonella. These studies merged the nascent area of genomics with traditional microbial genomics to investigate the virulence of Salmonella enterica serovar Enteritidis, a leading bacterial cause of food-borne illness. During this period, Dr. Edwards began sequencing several Salmonella genomes, and began collaborating on the open-source BioPerl project, to which he remains an active contributor.

From 2000 to 2004, Dr. Edwards was an Assistant Professor at University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center in Memphis, TN. Here, Dr. Edwards continued his studies on pathogenic bacteria, notably Salmonella and the class A Select Agent Francisella. Dr. Edwards was responsible for overseeing the renovation of space into a BSL-3 laboratory, capable of handling Select Agents, and for registering that facility with the CDC. Dr. Edwards received FBI clearance to work on Select Agents, and was invited to the NIH to comment on the use of Select Agents at basic research laboratories.

In 2004, Dr. Edwards moved to the non-profit Fellowship for Interpretation of Genomes to work at the interface of biologists and computer scientists. He remains an active software developer for the Fellowship, and helps guide their development direction through liaisons with microbiological researchers. Using breakout technologies, like pyrosequencing and high throughput bioinformatics analysis, Dr. Edwards’ studies are pushing the forefront of both sequencing technology and bioinformatics. This work was highlighted in three independent publications in Nature at the start of 2008. Dr. Edwards maintains interactions with mathematicians and computer scientists, developing open source software such as the PERL modules for biological analysis and parallel computing he has released to the community through BioPerl and CPAN.

Most recently, Dr. Edwards has returned to academia, and taken a research and teaching position in the Department of Computer Science at San Diego State University. Here he is continuing to work at the interface of biology and computing, but also expanding his research into grid-enabled research and high performance computing. Dr. Edwards has written open-source code for high performance parallel computing that is used worldwide.

Dr. Edwards research is currently funded by the National Science Foundation, and aims to bring high performance computing to the smallest biological organisms – the viruses. Edwards’ research is leading to breakthroughs in our understanding of how viruses interact with their hosts, and how viruses samples from around the world carry important genetic information.

Committed to teaching, Dr. Edwards received the SGAEC award for outstanding educator at the University of Tennessee, teacher-scholar award (2008) and outstanding faculty award (2009) at San Diego State University. He has taught bioinformatics classes around the US, in Brazil, China, Europe, and Mexico. He is funded by the Department of Education to develop joint courses in marine sciences between San Diego and Brazil.

Dr. Edwards maintains strong interactions with biologists, working closely with groups sequencing uncultured microbes (“metagenomes”) from diverse environments such as human samples, oceans, coral reefs, and mines. In addition to bioinformatics analysis Dr. Edwards is also a scientific SCUBA diver having studied both Pacific and Atlantic Coral Reefs, and also enjoys racing sailboats.