receives Sloan fellowship
leads to better food and drug problems
Post-Doctoral student Tiffani Williams has been awarded an Alfred
P. Sloan Foundation Post-doctoral Fellowship in Computational
Molecular Biology for two years. Twenty-six past Sloan Fellows
have become Nobel Laureates.
will work with School of Engineering Professors Bernard Moret,
Computer Science, and David Bader, Electrical and Computer Engineering.
She also taught a course in computer science at UNM last spring.
research is in the area of phylogenetic reconstruction, the
inference of the evolutionary history of a collection of organisms.
The relationships are graphically represented by as a phylogenetic
tree, where modern organisms are placed at the leaves, ancestral
organisms occupy internal nodes, and the edges of the tree denote
the evolutionary relationships. Such reconstructions are based
on molecular data such as DNA sequences collected from present-day
species and on a hypothesized model of evolution. From a computational
standpoint, phylogeny reconstruction is enormously expensive.
Williams will use high-performance computers to increase the
speed of existing phylogeny reconstruction algorithms.
my research will reconstruct evolutionary trees and find out
how they all relate, Williams said.
that the research will lead to the development of better drugs
and products. Agricultural laboratories use phylogenetic research
to produce better strains of basic foods such as rice or wheat.
public health researchers use phylogenies to track the spread
of various strains of the HIV virus (the cause of AIDS). Pharmaceutical
companies use them to identify likely drug targets.