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News Release

Electrical engineering professor Siavash Mirarab honored by ACM for dissertation work

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UC San Diego electrical engineering professor Siavash Mirarab honored by ACM for dissertation work

San Diego, CA, May 12, 2016 -- Electrical engineering professor Siavash Mirarab from the University of California San Diego has won an honorable mention for the 2015 Doctoral Dissertation Award presented by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).  

Mirarab’s dissertation title: Novel Scalable Approaches for Multiple Sequence Alignment and Phylogenomic Reconstruction (PDF link). He did his dissertation work at the University of Texas at Austin under the supervision of professors Tandy Warnow and Keshav Pingali in the Department of Computer Science.

The dissertation addresses the growing need to analyze large-scale biological sequence data efficiently and accurately. To address this challenge, Mirarab introduces several methods: PASTA, a scalable and accurate algorithm that can align data sets up to one million sequences; statistical binning, a novel technique for reducing noise in estimation of evolutionary trees for individual parts of the genome; and ASTRAL, a new summary method that can run on 1,000 species in one day and has outstanding accuracy.

These methods were essential in analyzing very large genomic datasets of birds and plants. This work included participation in the avian phylogenomic project. A set of Science papers resulting from this effort came out on Dec 11, 2014. (See the collection at sciencemag.org.) Stories that highlight the methodological contributions to the research published in Science appeared in The VergeMotherboard at Vice, HPC Wire, RT, UT News, U Illinois and U of Copenhagen. (See a more complete list of media coverage of these papers on Mirarab’s research page.)

About the ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award

Presented annually to the author(s) of the best doctoral dissertation(s) in computer science and engineering. The Doctoral Dissertation Award is accompanied by a prize of $20,000, and the Honorable Mention Award is accompanied by a prize of $10,000. Financial sponsorship of the award is provided by Google. Winning dissertations will be published in the ACM Digital Library as part of the ACM Books Series.

Media Contacts

Daniel Kane
Jacobs School of Engineering