| 2021 Overton Prize Winner:
Barbara Engelhardt, PhD
Barbara Engelhardt, PhD, Associate Professor at Princeton University, New Jersey, United States
The Overton Prize recognizes the research, education, and service accomplishments of early to mid-career scientists who are emerging leaders in computational biology and bioinformatics. The Overton Prize was instituted in 2001 to honor the untimely loss of G. Christian Overton, a leading bioinformatics researcher and a founding member of the ISCB Board of Directors. Barbara Engelhardt is being recognized as the 2021 recipient of the Overton Prize.
Barbara Engelhardt joined the Princeton Computer Science Department in 2014 from Duke University, where she had been an assistant professor in Biostatistics and Bioinformatics and Statistical Sciences. She graduated from Stanford University and received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.
Barbara Engelhardt’s research is in developing statistical models and machine learning methods for the analysis of biomedical data, with a focus on studying complex associations, time-series, sequential decision-making, and predicting the effects of perturbations in human cohorts, single cell data, and hospital patient data. In the field of single cell genomics, dimension reduction is a pressing problem and she has contributed a scalable and robust approach to dimension reduction using a Gaussian process latent variable model (GPLVM) with t-distributed residuals. Her group also developed approaches to determine the specific set of genes that differentiate particular types of cellular pathology images using machine learning methods like convolutional autoencoders and sparse canonical correlation analysis. Her research has a reputation for producing rigorous and creative statistical approaches for the analysis of complex biomedical data.
As part of the Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) Consortium, Dr. Engelhardt performed key analyses to identify regulatory DNA variation that is linked to distal gene expression changes (“trans-eQTLs”). In the context of this large scale experimental effort, she determined trans-eQTLs across 49 human tissues and 838 individuals. Notable results include a confirmation of the greater tissue specificity of trans-eQTL versus mutations that are nearby the gene they regulate. Based on her expertise and creativity she has contributed numerous novel machine learning and statistics methods to important projects from genomics, population genetics, and human genetics.
Barbara Engelhardt has been an outspoken advocate for women and under-represented groups in the sciences. She has used her voice to advocate on behalf of these groups both through traditional means and on social media. Notably, Dr. Engelhardt's research group, housed in a computer science department, currently includes five women graduate students and postdocs and she has served as a mentor, both formally and informally for many women and individuals from under-represented groups, proving Dr. Engelhardt's status as a leader in the field of computational biology and bioinformatics.
ISCB will present the Accomplishments by a Senior Scientist Award, Overton Prize, Innovator Award and Outstanding Contributions to ISCB Award, at ISMB/ECCB 2021 (https://www.iscb.org/ismbeccb2021), which will take place in virtually, July 26-30, 2021.
Full bibliographical articles profiling the award recipients will be available in the ISMB/ECCB 2021 focus issue of the ISCB newsletter later this year, as well as the ISCB Society Pages in OUP Bioinformatics, and F1000 Research ISCB Community Journal.