Aneil Agrawal obtained his B.Sc. (1997) at UBC before completing a Ph.D. (2003) in evolutionary biology at Indiana University. He returned to UBC as NSERC's Howard Alper postdoctoral fellow before beginning a faculty position as a Canada Research Chair at the University of Toronto in 2004.
Throughout his career, Agrawal has been unique among his peers in tackling both theoretical and empirical projects at a high level. His deep understanding of theory has allowed him to study some of the great outstanding problems in evolutionary biology, such as why organisms shuffle their genomes through sexual reproduction rather than reproducing asexually. His other major line of research focuses on understanding the evolutionary consequences of the constant influx of deleterious mutations, a topic with widespread ramifications for topics ranging from genome architecture to public health. In addition, Agrawal has made significant contributions, both theoretically and empirically, to a variety of other topics including social evolution, sexual selection, host-parasite coevolution, and the maintenance of genetic variation.
He has published over 50 peer-reviewed publications, almost all of which are in the top journals for his field (e.g., Evolution, Genetics), biology (Current Biology, PLoS Biology), or science (Science, Nature, PNAS); he is first or senior author on almost all of these contributions. A number of his papers have been highlighted by the Faculty of 1000 and his work has been covered by international media (New York Times, USA Today, MSNBC.com). Agrawal is regularly invited to give lectures in both national and international institutions and conferences, including some of the top venues in his field (Duke, Univ. of Montpellier, UBC). He is an elected member of council of the Society for the Study of Evolution and serves as an associate editor of the leading journal of his field, Evolution. Over his career, NSERC has recognized Agrawal's achievements with a variety of awards and honours including the Howard Alper Prize, the Discovery Accelerator Supplement, and, most recently, the Steacie Fellowship. Moreover, Agrawal has received major awards from both national and international scientific societies including the Haynes Young Scientist Award (Genetics Society of Canada), the Dobzhansky Prize (Society for the Study of Evolution), and the Young Investigator's Prize and Presidential Award (American Society of Naturalists).
In addition to his research, Agrawal has been deeply involved in teaching. He has developed four new courses that are known for their rigour in teaching students fundamental elements of evolutionary theory from first principles. He has supervised numerous 499Y (independent project) students. Many of these students have received departmental awards for these projects and five of them published their research in major journals. For his effort and skill in teaching at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, Agrawal received the Outstanding Teacher Award from Faculty of Arts & Sciences in 2011.
Agrawal has been an important contributor to the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology since its inception. He has played a major role in developing the graduate program and has been involved in continuing to re-shape it in a changing landscape. He initiated and organized an annual departmental research colloquium. This has become the Department's signature event, bringing together grad students, postdocs, and faculty as well as distinguished speakers from abroad. He has served as the chief organizer of the event for seven of the last eight years, continuing to improve it each time. More recently, he created and organized an annual weekend workshop called "Careers & Research in Ecology & Evolution" for top undergrads from across Canada. By assembling a team of speakers and panelists from within and beyond academia, the workshop provides students with access to information they would not typically receive in a standard undergraduate program. For this reason, Agrawal was able to secure NSERC's support. Agrawal's workshop furthers the Department's mission to educate students about research and career opportunities while also serving as a useful graduate recruiting tool.