Ron Dror's biography

For some reason, people have guessed at some point that I'm from each inhabited continent, including places like Australia that I have yet to visit.  I was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, but only lived there for my first six months.  Since then, I've lived for a year or more in each of Pittsburgh, Madison (Wisconsin), Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, Fredrikstad (Norway), Houston, Cambridge (England) and Cambridge (Massachusetts) before moving to New York.

I graduated from high school in Minnesota, spending a year as a Rotary Youth Exchange student in Norway.  I won the Norwegian national math competition and had the somewhat bizarre fortune to represent Norway at the International Math Olympiad in Istanbul, Turkey.  I won a full scholarship to Rice University and graduated at the top of my class with a B.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering and a B.A. in Mathematics.  I also took a variety of biology, biochemistry, and bioengineering courses and did research on neural motor control in a lab at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. 

I won one of ten Churchill Scholarships awarded annually to American students and spent a year doing a research master's degree in Biological Sciences at the University of Cambridge, where I studied the neural mechanisms for visual motion detection using both electrophysiology and computational modeling.

I considered doing an MD/PhD, having deferred a funded position at the Harvard Medical School/MIT program, but decided to do a straight PhD at MIT, where I pursued several distinct research projects.  My thesis focused on applications of stochastic estimation techniques to computer vision problems.   I also collaborated with psychophysicists on experiments to investigate how the human visual system tackles analogous problems.   In addition, I led a project involving the application of Bayesian estimation methods to analysis of genomic data, working with biologists at the Whitehead Institute.

Upon completing my PhD, I came close to accepting an academic faculty position, but decided instead to join David E. Shaw (the founder of the D. E. Shaw group) in starting up a new research group focusing on biomolecular simulations; I became the first hire in that group, which is now known as D. E. Shaw Research.  My focus has remained scientific, but I also spend considerable time on management, business development, and recruiting.

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