The Akira Okubo Prize

The Second Akira Okubo Prize was awarded to Professor Simon Levin from Princeton University, during a special lunch on the first day of the Joint Meeting of the SMB and JAMB in Hilo, Hawaii, July 2001. The announcement of the Prize by Professor Yoh Iwasa is enclosed below:

President of the Society for Mathematical Biology
Secretary General of Japanese Association of Mathematical Biology

April 25, 2001

Dear Sirs,

We are pleased to announce that the Second Akira-Okubo prize committee has reached its conclusion.

The procedure of selection was as follows: The committee is composed of six members: Mark Chaplain , Mark Lewis, and Philip Maini from SMB, and Toshiyuki Namba, Takenori Takada, and Yoh Iwasa from JAMB. We received eight nominations. First we discussed the procedure of selection. After examining the submitted material and exchanging our views on the suitability of candidates, each committee member raised top three candidates with scores. The results were clear -- all the members agreed concerning the top two. Then we focused on these two people and attempted to summarize their research achievements. Finally we voted. Through this procedure, we reached the conclusion that the winner of the second Akira-Okubo prize is

Professor Simon A. Levin (Princeton University)

Professor Simon Levin graduated Johns Hopkins in 1961, and received his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland in 1964, both in Mathematics. Simon Levin became a professor in Ecology and Systematics, Cornell University from 1965. Since 1992, he has been teaching at Princeton University.

Beginning with his 1974 American Naturalist paper of the coexistence of competitors in a spatially structured population, Simon Levin has helped to establish the field of spatial ecology. His modeling of the inter-tidal zones with Robert Paine illustrated the importance of disturbances forming spatial patterns and the gap dynamics of mussel beds. It is now a classic study often seen in introductory ecology textbooks.

The best cited article by Simon Levin is his MacArthur Award paper published in 1992 in Ecology. Here he presented the importance of scales in understanding ecological patterns very clearly by raising a number of ideas and examples in ecology.

More recently, his collaborations with Rick Durrett brought new concepts to bear on ecological problems by emphasizing the importance of stochastic approaches to spatial ecological processes.

Simon Levin has had a long-term interest in group formation of animals. Rules for the behavior of individuals are translated into patterns observed in groups such as herds or swarms. However, the translation from the Lagrangian to the Eulerian framework is a great challenge. This is the field Akira Okubo pioneered.

Another area where Simon's work has been central to the development of a subject is the evolution of dispersal. Simon Levin and his colleagues established principles governing how variability leads to selection for dispersal, and explored new concepts in the field of evolutionarily stable strategies to do so.

In addition, Levin has also had made a major contribution towards the modeling of infectious diseases. His recent works includes a paper on the effect of antibiotic resistance on disease.

Recently, Simon Levin has been very influential in the area of modeling biodiversity and ecological sustainability.

Simon Levin is very talented in his ability to guide and inspire people as illustrated by a list of collaborators and students. He is also extremely flexible in the kind of mathematical formulation and type of analysis.

In addition to these research achievements, Simon Levin has been influential to mathematical ecology in many ways. He was President of the SMB from 87-89, just before his term as President of the Ecological Society of America. He was recently elected to a member of the US National Academy of Sciences.

The criteria for the prize says that the objective is to honor a scientist for "for outstanding and innovative theoretical work, for establishing superb conceptual ideas, for solving tough theoretical problems, and/or for uniting theory and data to advance a biological subject". We believe that Simon Levin meets all of these criteria.

Hence we are pleased to recommend Professor Simon A. Levin as the winner of the Second Akira Okubo prize.

Best wishes,
Sincerely yours,
Yoh Iwasa, Chairman, The Second Akira-Okubo Prize Committee