Bioinformatics Pioneer David Haussler To Receive Carnegie Mellon’s Prestigious Dickson Prize in Science-Mellon College of Science - Carnegie Mellon University

Monday, February 27, 2006

Bioinformatics Pioneer David Haussler To Receive Carnegie Mellon’s Prestigious Dickson Prize in Science

PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University will present its prestigious Dickson Prize in Science to David Haussler, professor of biomolecular engineering at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). Haussler, a leader in the field of bioinformatics, will receive $50,000 and deliver a public lecture as part of the prize ceremony at 4:30 p.m., Thursday, March 9, in McConomy Auditorium in the University Center on the Carnegie Mellon campus.

A Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, Haussler directs the Center for Biomolecular Science and Engineering at UCSC and is scientific co-director of the California Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Research. He has done pioneering work in the fields of computational learning theory and bioinformatics, and has been instrumental in establishing strong and productive interdisciplinary interactions between computer scientists and molecular biologists.

In the 1990s, Haussler introduced the use of powerful statistical models (hidden Markov models and related methods) to the analysis of biological sequences of DNA, RNA and proteins. This work led to vital contributions to the International Human Genome Project, as he and his research group provided a computational solution that enabled the first working draft of the human genome to be completed.

In his most ambitious project, Haussler and his colleagues are using the genomes of living mammals to attempt to reconstruct by computer the entire genome of the common ancestor of all placental mammals. While this work is still in its very early stages, it has already generated considerable interest.

A fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Association for Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), Haussler received the 2003 Association of Computing Machinery/AAAI Allen Newell Award, and R&D Magazine named him “Scientist of the Year” in 2001.

“We were impressed with the development of the methods that allowed assembly of the millions of DNA sequences into the single public human genome sequence,” said Elizabeth Jones, University Professor and Head of the Department of Biological Sciences. “This resource is of incalculable value in investigating human genetic history and human health.”

Jones and Randy Bryant, Dean of the School of Computer Science, co-nominated Haussler for the award.

Ron Shamir, head of the School of Computer Science at Tel Aviv University, spoke highly of Haussler in his letter of support to the selection committee.

“Haussler’s research is characterized by mathematical rigor and elegance that is combined with practical application and transformed into tools on a scale rarely seen by the community,” Shamir said. “His group’s work is a vehicle for advancing research and for novel scientific findings by the community.”

The Dickson Prize was established by a gift to Carnegie Mellon from the estate of Dr. and Mrs. Joseph Dickson to fund an annual prize to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to science in the United States. Dr. Dickson was a prominent physician in the Pittsburgh area, and it was his wish to bring as much prestige and honor as possible to the university and to Pittsburgh with this award. Since 1970, the university has awarded the Dickson Prize to prominent researchers in such areas as mathematics, cell biology, civil engineering, metallurgy, computer science, genetics and physics.

By: Teresa Thomas