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2007 ISCB Accomplishment by a Senior Scientist Award Winner - Temple Smith

Picture: 2007 ISCB ASSA Winner,
Temple F. Smith

The International Society for Computational Biology is pleased to honor Temple F. Smith of Boston University with the 2007 ISCB Accomplishment by a Senior Scientist Award. The award recognizes senior members of the computational biology community who have made major contributions to the field through research, education, service, or a combination of the three.

"Professor Smith’s contributions go well beyond those for which he is best known," says Thomas Lengauer, chair of the ISCB Awards Committee. Lengauer continued, "He is a towering figure in bioinformatics, one of the founders of the discipline. In addition to starting GenBank and being the Smith of the Smith-Waterman algorithm, he has done seminal work on the entropy of the genetic code and on pattern-directed protein structure prediction." Other influential work includes research on gene prediction, molecular phylogenies, multiple sequence alignments and the analysis of sequence patterns." His results have had a tremendous impact on the field. And his BioMolecular Engineering Research Center at the Boston University College of Engineering is a superlative resource for a wide variety of endeavors."

Smith obtained his doctorate in nuclear physics from the University of Colorado in 1969 and was at NIH as a postdoctoral fellow with Stanislaw Ulam, T. T. Puck, and John R. Sadler, studying bacterial genetic regulation. He then took an appointment as professor of physics at Northern Michigan University, spending summers as a visiting staff member in applied mathematics and theoretical biology at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory where he helped to organize GenBank.

Moving to Boston University in 1991, Smith became a professor in the departments of bioengineering and pharmacology and director of The BioMolecular Engineering Research Center (BMERC) . His center is currently working under NIH and NSF grants on activation of inflammation stress response pathways, cellularsignaling problems (with the Alliance for Cellular Signaling), the generation of automated models of protein folds, and the core genomics of the origin of eukaryotes.

A science writer at Boston University, Michael Seele, writes of how Smith and Michael Waterman came to write his only geology paper as follows:

"As the pair walked to lunch, they passed through the geology department lobby, where two large core samples on display stopped them in their tracks. Similar sequences of strata on different columns were connected by strings. Smith and Waterman immediately saw the columns as strands of DNA and the comparable strata as the short protein sequences they were trying to align. "We now faced the possibility that a geologist had solved the problem before us," Smith said. Resigned, Smith and Waterman visited the geology chairman and asked how the sequence alignment had been done. Their mood elevated when the chairman informed them that visual observation and string were as far as anyone had advanced with a solution. "Lo and behold! This was an unsolved problem in geology," Smith said. "This resulted in our first geology paper, basically written over the next couple of days." With a fresh perspective, the team returned to bioinformatics work and published the Smith-Waterman sequence alignment algorithm the following year. It remains one of the most referenced papers in molecular biology.

Of his award, Smith says, "I’m truly honored to join my longtime friend and colleague Mike Waterman, who preceded me in winning this award last year, as well as the distinguished company of previous winners."

The Accomplishment by a Senior Scientist Award will be presented in Vienna followed by a keynote address, titled "Computational Biology. What’s next?" to close the conference on July 25, 2007. To read additional biographical information and an abstract of Smith’s keynote address see www.iscb.org/ismbeccb2007/keynotespresentations/#smith.

Citation: Maisel M (2007) ISCB Honors Temple F. Smith and Eran Segal. PLoS Comput Biol 3(6): e128 doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.0030128

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