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Picture: 2006 Overton Prize Winner, Dr. Mathieu Blanchette

2006 Overton Prize Winner - Mathieu Blanchette

The International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB) awards the 2006 Overton Prize to Mathieu Blanchette, assistant professor in the School of Computer Science at McGill University in Montréal. The prize is awarded at the ISCB annual meeting, Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology, held in Fortaleza, Brazil, on August 8, 2006 when Blanchette delivers the annual Overton keynote lecture entitled "What mammalian genomes tell us about our ancestors, and vice versa."

"Mathieu Blanchette is responsible for fundamental, highly cited contributions in several areas of bioinformatics," says Professor Thomas Lengauer of the Max-Planck-Institut für Informatik, who is chair of the ISCB Awards Committee.

"His doctoral thesis contained perhaps the first reasonable algorithm for gene-order phylogeny, based on a solution to the breakpoint median problem, and it also elaborated the now-famous concept of phylogenetic footprinting. As a postdoctoral researcher, he played a central role in working out algorithms for reconstructing ancestral mammalian genomes. His most recent work continues his interest in the inference of evolutionary scenarios and gene regulation. And he has been active in the bioinformatics community since his student days, presenting papers at the Computing and Combinatorics conferences and the Research in Computational Molecular Biology meetings, among others. He is currently organizing several workshops and conferences, has attracted many students to his new lab, and has been highly successful in obtaining funding in a competitive environment."

From 1994 through 1997, Blanchette was an undergraduate in the Mathematics and Computer Science departments of the Université de Montréal. After graduating, he did an M.Sc. there as well, writing a thesis on breakpoint phylogeny under the direction of David Sankoff. He then went to the University of Washington, obtaining a Ph.D. in Computer Science (2002) under the supervision of Martin Tompa. He spent the next year as a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Biomolecular Science and Engineering of the University of California at Santa Cruz, where he worked with David Haussler. He took up his current position at McGill in 2003.

Blanchette says, "Chris Overton was one of the first explorers of the world of bioinformatics, before the name even existed, and he opened the area to young people like me. I am immensely grateful for the work he did and greatly honored to receive this award, created in his memory after his untimely death in 2000." The award is given annually to a scientist in the early to middle stage of his or her career who has contributed significantly to computational biology through research, education, service, or a combination of the three.

For an abstract of Blanchette's keynote address, please see

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