Math faculty Sebastien Roch and former Ph.D. student Kun-Chieh (Jason) Wang won Best Paper Award at the prestigious 22nd Annual International Conference on Research in Computational Molecular Biology (RECOMB) 2018. Their submission "Circular Networks from Distorted Metrics’’ combines ideas from mathematical biology, combinatorial algorithms and theoretical statistics to make progress on the notoriously challenging problem of inferring phylogenetic networks from genetic data.
Trees have long been used as a representation of species relationships. However complex evolutionary events, such as genetic reassortments or hybrid speciations which occur commonly in viruses, bacteria and plants, do not fit into this elementary framework. Circular networks are one of the many possible generalizations of trees studied in evolutionary biology. Although such networks can be hard to interpret, their neat visualization and fast reconstruction have made them an exploratory tool of choice to detect network-like evolution in genomic datasets. Roch and Wang devised a new estimation method that is both fast and, in a mathematically rigorous sense, more robust to the noise intrinsic to this type of evolutionary data.
External link: https://recomb2018.fr/participants-and-awards/
Congratulations to Lu Wang on her award of the Vilas Faculty Early Investigator Award. The award is meant to recognize research and teaching excellence in faculty who are relatively early in their careers.
Congratulations to Sebastien Roch, Dima Arinkin and Jordan Ellenberg in being named Simon Fellows. The Simons Fellows programs in both Mathematics and Theoretical Physics provide funds to faculty for up to a semester-long research leave from classroom teaching and administrative obligations.
John Heim, IT system administrator, has been awarded the 2017 Martha Casey Award for Excellence. This competitive campus-wide award celebrates the "unsung hero" of many departments and John certainly qualifies. John has developed several applications to smooth student transitions and administrative processes since he's started in 2005. John will be honored at a ceremony at the Fluno Center on April 10, 2018.