Jon F. Wilkins is a theoretical evolutionary biologist, poet, webcomic author and the founder of the Ronin Institute.
Growing up in Los Alamos, Jon started off his academic career in most excellent fashion. He graduated from Harvard with a physics degree in 1993, transitioned to biochemistry at Berkeley and the University of Wisconsin and then back to Harvard for the biophysics program (although his home was more in organismic and evolutionary biology). He spent three years in the Harvard Society of Fellows before joining as resident faculty at the Santa Fe Institute where he spent the next six years exploring linguistics, HIV genetics, evolution of recombination, and the relationship between robustness and epistasis. His current research interests span several different topics, including genomic imprinting, coalescent theory, statistical inference, and the origins of robustness and epistasis.
Leaving SFI, Jon found himself called to resolve a major piece of the current “crisis of higher education.” For a number of interlocking reasons, the path of ‘traditional academic researcher’ is increasingly narrow, constrained and all-consuming. The result is the absence of an enormous number of highly capable people and an enormous amount of scholarship, research and creativity from our collective intellectual world.
His solution is the Ronin Institute for Independent Scholarship. Already including more than forty scholars around the world, Ronin’s goal is to create a new model for academia, one that exists outside of the university system, by supporting and connecting independent scholars. This new model is more efficient, more humane, and more creative than the traditional model, as it eliminates the burden of bureaucracy that weighs down universities, and the intellectual constraints imposed by the existing departmental and funding structures.