Charles Ofria named one of the 2017 William J. Beal Outstanding Faculty

Charles Ofria, 2017 William J. Beal Outstanding Faculty Award Recipient

Charles Ofria, 2017 William J. Beal Outstanding Faculty Award Recipient

We are proud to congratulate BEACON’s Deputy Director Charles Ofria for being named a 2017 William J. Beal Outstanding Faculty Award winner.

Charles Ofria is recognized internationally for his research at the interface of computer science and evolutionary biology. He developed the Avida Digital Evolution Research Platform, wherein self-replicating computer programs are subject to mutations and selective pressures resulting in an open-ended evolutionary process. Because these digital organisms exist inside a computer, Ofria can easily study long-term evolutionary processes and, in turn, apply what he learns toward solving computational problems

Ofria is one of the founders of the $50 million BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action at MSU, an NSF-supported center that allows engineers with an applied evolutionary focus to work with evolutionary biologists to create a theoretical foundation for both computational and biological research.

As part of his role in founding the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action, Ofria developed a multidisciplinary course on Multidisciplinary Research Methods for the Study of Evolution, for the purpose of mentoring students on the research process at the intersection of fields. He covers communicating across fields, developing interesting research questions, performing literature searches, formulating and testing hypotheses (along with using simple statistics) and presenting research results so they are accessible to a range of audiences.

Each year, multiple groups in the class publish their work after the end of the semester, with students universally agreeing that they have gained tremendous insight into the research process. Teaching reviews from other classes note his ability to convey abstract concepts in a practical manner, often through live-coding demonstrations, real-world examples and instructional technologies that provide students with instantaneous feedback.

His teaching has been recognized with the MSU Teacher–Scholar and the Withrow Teaching Awards.

Ofria is the president of the International Society for Artificial Life and a member of the editorial board for “PeerJ Computer Science.” He is active in reviewing articles for a number of prestigious journals, including “Nature,” “Communications of the ACM: IEEE Proceedings of Artificial Intelligence” and “Journal of Theoretical Biology.”

MSU will celebrate the accomplishments of 10 William J. Beal Outstanding Faculty Award winners and other recipients of all-university awards during the Michigan State University’s annual Awards Convocation on Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 3:30 p.m. at Wharton Center’s Pasant Theatre. Two faculty from the College of Engineering — Bradley Marks and Charles Ofria — will be honored. The 2017 honorees bring the number of MSU faculty honored to 541 since the award was established in 1952.

Colleagues, friends and family are invited to share the event with the awardees. MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon will salute their contributions to the university’s excellence. Simon also will take a few minutes to acknowledge MSU’s Founders Day as well as deliver the 2017 State of the University address.

Watch the celebration at
There will be a link to the live stream of the celebration at and The William J. Beal Outstanding Faculty Awards are supported by the Office of University Development.

William James Beal (March 11, 1833 – May 12, 1924) was an American botanist, who was professor of botany (1871-1910) and curator of the museum (1882-1903) at the Michigan Agricultural College (MAC), now MSU. He was a pioneer in the development of hybrid corn and the founder of MSU’s renowned W. J. Beal Botanical Garden.

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Story courtesy of MSUToday

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