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UT Computer Science graduate student Siavash Mirarab was awarded Honorable Mention for the 2015 ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award. Mirarab’s dissertation, Novel Scalable Approaches for Multiple Sequence Alignment and Phylogenomic Reconstruction, 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. Mirarab is currently an Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of California, San Diego. He obtained a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Texas at Austin, which nominated him for this award. He will share a $10,000 prize with another Honorable Mention awardee, Aaron Sidford of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with financial sponsorship provided by Google Inc.

About Siavash's Work

The following text is reprinted from an article produced by UT Computer Science on 12/11/24.

A new computational technique developed at The University of Texas at Austin has enabled an international consortium to produce an avian tree of life that points to the origins of various bird species. A graduate student at the university is a leading author on papers describing the new technique and sharing the consortium’s findings about bird evolution in the journal Science.

The results of the four-year effort — which relied in part on supercomputers at the university's Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) — shed light on the timing of a "big bang" in bird evolution, rearrange evolutionary relationships between some bird species and provide new insights on the origins of song pattern recognition in birds, as well as a host of other avian traits.

To build the new bird tree of life, researchers first sequenced the complete genomes of 48 living bird species... [To continue reading, click here.]

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.

About ACM

ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, is the world's largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field's challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession's collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.