Roderick Dewar studied mathematical physics at the University of Edinburgh (BSc Hons, 1982), where he also carried out his PhD in the field of statistical mechanics and phase transitions (1983-1986). As a postdoc he continued working in this field in the Department of Theoretical Physics at Oxford University before undergoing his own phase transition to biology in 1989. Since then he has worked at the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology (now the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology) in Edinburgh, the University of New South Wales (School of Biological Sciences) in Sydney, and the French National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRA) in Bordeaux. In 2008 he returned to Australia for a professorship in The Australian National University in Canberra, where he recently retired from. He is now working partly as a Visiting Professor in INAR during 2019-2021.
His current research looks at the emergent behaviour of complex biological and physical systems - whether individual organisms, ecosystems, turbulent fluids or Earth's climate system - from the common viewpoint of entropy, as the statistical outcome of a large number of underlying degrees of freedom. The main focus is on the principles of maximum entropy and maximum entropy production, and their application to biological problems across a wide range of scales - from understanding the evolutionary optimization of biologically important macromolecules to identifying the key determinants of species diversity in ecological communities. Professor Dewar is now working with Timo Vesala and Teemu Hölttä’s group in Viikki and Kumpula on tree water relations.