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2006 ISCB Accomplishment by a Senior Scientist Award Winner - Michael Waterman

Picture: 2006 ISCB ASSA Winner,
Michael S. Waterman

Dr. Michael S. Waterman, Professor of Biological Sciences, Computer Sciences, and Mathematics at the University of Southern California, is the 2006 recipient of the Senior Scientist Accomplishment Award of the International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB).

Waterman is best known as the developer, with Temple F. Smith, of the Smith-Waterman algorithm for determining the degree of similarity (homology) of amino acid sequences from DNA, RNA, or proteins. In their famous three-page paper in the Journal of Molecular Biology in 1981, Waterman and Smith changed the face of molecular biology and helped launch the bioinformatics revolution.

"Ever since, Mike Waterman has contributed work of prime importance in half a dozen fields of computational biology," says Professor Thomas Lengauer of the Max-Planck-Institut für Informatik and chair of the ISCB Awards Committee. "In addition to the Smith-Waterman algorithm and its follow-ons, Waterman introduced the dynamic programming approach to RNA structure prediction; and he supplied the mathematical, probabilistic, and statistical underpinning that supports BLAST and similar alignment search and evaluation tools. In 1988, he and Eric Lander derived the fundamental formulae to enable the correct assembly of genome sequences. His recent software for genome assembly, written with computational scientist Pavel Pevzner of UCSD and mathematician Haixu Tang of USC, promises to become the standard for the field."

Lengauer adds, "Waterman has had enormous impact on the fields of bioinformatics, computational genomics, and phylogeny, combining vision with technical depth, and his influence goes beyond research." Waterman has trained many prominent computational geneticists, has served on virtually all the panels and committees advising government and evaluating major grants and fellowships, and has generally guided the development of computational biology. "He wrote one of the first textbooks in this field." Lengauer says," and his latest text, Computational Genome Analysis: An Introduction, written with Richard C. Deonier and Simon Tavaré, is unique in successfully addressing the needs of students with very little background in either biology or computing. With Pavel Pevzner and Sorin Istrail, Waterman founded RECOMB, the conference on research in computational molecular biology, which held its tenth conference in April 2006."

Waterman is a founding editor of the Journal of Computational Biology and serves on the editorial boards of six other journals. He was named a Guggenheim Fellow (1995), was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1995) and to the National Academy of Sciences (2001), and is a Fellow of AAAS and the Institute of Mathematical Statistics. In 2005, he was elected to the French Académie des Sciences. In addition to his posts as University Professor and USC Associates Chair in Natural Sciences, he is professor-at-large in the Keck Graduate Institute of Life Sciences and master of USC's Parkside International Residence College.

The Senior Scientist Achievement Award will be presented to Professor Waterman on August 10 at the ISCB annual meeting, Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology, in Fortaleza, Brazil. Waterman will deliver the final keynote lecture, "Whole genome optical mapping," for the conference.

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