Hertz Fellow Michael Baym Receives Packard Fellowship

December 5, 2018
Hertz Staff
Livermore, Calif

This year not only marked the 30th anniversary of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation’s Packard Fellowships for Science and Engineering but the 13th year this specific Fellowship has been awarded to a Hertz Fellow.

Every year, the Packard Foundation invites the presidents of 50 universities to nominate two early-career professors from their institutions. 2004 Hertz Fellow Michael Baym was chosen by Harvard in a two-stage process where he was selected from faculty across the University in basic sciences and engineering. Baym is one of 18 innovative, early-career scientists and engineers selected by the Packard Foundation to receive $875,000 over five years to pursue his research.

There has never before been a Packard Fellow from Harvard Medical School. The inspiration for Baym to begin the application process actually came from Hertz Fellow Mikhail Shapiro who was awarded a Packard Fellowship two years ago. Both Fellows were among the 2004 Hertz Fellows, and Shapiro’s mentorship through the process made it seem possible.

The impact of Baym’s Hertz Fellowship dates back even before he was inspired by Shapiro to apply for a Packard Fellowship. The work his Hertz Fellowship enabled him to do and the connections he made laid the ground work for the research he did after. The chain of events that led him to his current research in antibiotic resistance began with a conversation he had with Senior Fellowship Interviewer Lowell Wood and Hertz Fellow Jeff Gore at a 2008 Hertz Retreat. Wood discussed the Gates Grand Challenges, including antibiotic resistance, which was of great interest to Baym, and Gore pointed Baym to Roy Kishony at Harvard Medical School.

Fast forward 10 years and Baym is a Principal Investigator, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Informatics and Member of the Laboratory of Systems Pharmacology at Harvard Medical School. His laboratory’s research is centered around the problem of antibiotic resistance, at the intersection of experimental, theoretical and computational techniques. His work ranges from understanding the basic mechanisms of evolution to the development of algorithms for computation on massive biological datasets. Baym’s lab uses a combination of experimental evolution and data science to understand this dynamic process, in order to design practical interventions to decrease, prevent, or even reverse resistance evolution. With the Packard Fellowship, Baym plans on furthering his research and expects great things, much like his Hertz Fellowship afforded him, in the coming years.

“The Packard Fellowship’s mission aligns perfectly with our own,’” Hertz Foundation President Robbee Baker Kosak said. “They provide scientists and engineers with the resources and freedom to innovate, just as we do. This flexibility is meant to nurture research that improves the lives of many and the universe around us. We’re excited to see how far Michael can take his research with the support of the Foundation.”

Prior to his current position at Harvard Medical School, Baym was a graduate student with Bonnie Berger in Mathematics at MIT, and a postdoctoral fellow with Roy Kishony in Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School. In addition to a Packard Fellowship and Hertz Graduate Fellowship, he was also the recipient of an NSF Mathematical Sciences Postdoctoral Research Fellowship. He is a part-time inventor, holding over 40 US patents.

Baym remains deeply interested and committed to antibiotic resistance, and, if in 5-10 years he is doing something he could imagine today, he believes he hasn’t been creative enough.