Penn State’s Medvedev receives National Science Foundation CAREER award

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Paul Medvedev, an assistant professor in the department of computer science and engineering, the department of biochemistry and molecular biology and the Genome Sciences Institute at the Huck at Penn State, has received a five-year National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award expected to total $549,010.

The highly distinguished NSF CAREER award supports junior faculty who conduct innovative research, have shown excellence in teaching and are able to successfully integrate the two.

“This is a prestigious award and I’m honored to have received it,” said Medvedev. “You never know what people will think about your work. You write your proposal and hope others will believe in your ability to do it.”

Medvedev’s project, “CAREER De Novo Assembly of Large Genomic Data,” will provide funding to develop methods for assembling large genomic data through bioinformatics.

“Paul’s research helps for studies on how genomes from individuals differ structurally from one another. Questions on structural variation are understudied because they are hard,” said Mary Poss, professor of biology and veterinary biomedical sciences, who works with Medvedev on a genome assembly project. “Paul's efforts are making it possible to study differences in structure of genomes. The NSF CAREER awards provide a great start for talented young investigators. Of course he deserves it—he’s great.”

Medvedev said his five-year goal is to improve assembly tools for large genomic data for researchers like Poss. Right now, putting together the largest known genome—a pine tree—would take several weeks if not months, too time-consuming and expensive for most biologists.

“In five years, my hope is that we can construct a high quality assembly of a mammalian sized genome in a few hours on a desktop and a large plant genome on a server in less than a day,” said Medvedev, noting that in five years computers will be more evolved than they are now.

The grant will also allow Medvedev to develop and teach a computer science and engineering class on how algorithms and data structures from  theoretic computer science can be applied to solve real-world biological problems, so students can have a better understanding of bioinformatics specifically and how a theoretical field can have an impact in practice more generally.  Additionally, it will afford him about two graduate students a year for the next five years.

Medvedev joined Penn State in 2012. His research interests are in genome assembly and variation detection as well as phylogenetics, graph theory, computational complexity, online algorithms and networking.

Last Updated February 19, 2015