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New Laurier professor holds SHARCNET biocomputing chair

Computing network is expanding Laurier’s research capabilities and attracting new faculty

Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing

Oct 4/04| For Immediate Release

Contact:

Dr. Arthur Szabo
Dean, Faculty of Science (519) 884-0710 x2401

or 

Michael Strickland
Manager, Media Relations & Info (519) 884-0710 x3070


WATERLOO/> – An expert in computational biology is moving to Canada/> to take up a new chair in biocomputing, specializing in bioinformatics, at Wilfrid Laurier University. The Shared Hierarchical Academic Research Computing Network (SHARCNET) chair will allow Gabriel Moreno-Hagelsieb to further his research into the genomic sequences of bacteria.

“We are very pleased to have Dr. Moreno-Hagelsieb join the faculty of science as the SHARCNET chair in biocomputing,” said Arthur Szabo, dean of science. “The SHARCNET high-performance computer network continues to provide Laurier researchers like Dr. Moreno-Hagelsieb with the considerable resources that few institutions could offer on their own.”

Moreno-Hagelsieb strives to understand the genetic diversity and organization of microbes. He compares the DNA of all known microbes to find particular differences, and then determines how those differences relate to environmental changes. The increasing abundance of genetic sequences requires a high-performance computer to analyze the data.

Laurier’s participation in SHARCNET made available the computing power necessary for my research,” says Moreno-Hagelsieb. “The SHARCNET system is essential to my research for a variety of functions, including gene-to-gene comparisons, finding of functional modules, construction of networks of probable interactions between gene products, and measuring gene properties and variability.”

Understanding genetic diversity will enable researchers to identify the most and least adaptable groups of genes in microbes. Adaptable genes will assist with projects such as the biological cleaning of the environment. Genes that are the least adaptable are significant in identifying better targets for anti-microbial agents.

Moreno-Hagelsieb comes to Laurier from the National University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) where he was an associate professor in the program for computational genomics. For the past two years, he was a visiting fellow at the Center for Agricultural Bioinformatics, which is hosted at the Cornell Theory Center at Cornell University.

Moreno-Hagelsieb is a founding member of the Mexican Society for Genomic Sciences (Sociedad Mexicana de Ciencias Genómicas). He was a part of Mexico’s National Index of Researchers (Sistema Nacional de Investigadores), a program that lists important researchers in Mexico and gives an award to each of them.

SHARCNET provides leading-edge computational equipment to accelerate the production of research results. The SHARCNET chairs program is designed to attract world-renowned experts in a variety of fields to SHARCNET facilities.

Formally established in June 2001 as a consortium of five universities, including Laurier, and two colleges, SHARCNET has expanded to include a total of 11 leading academic institutions in southwestern Ontario. SHARCNET recently announced the injection of almost $50 million into the network. The federal government’s Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario government, through the Ontario Innovation Trust, each contributed $19.3-million grants. Another $10 million was raised through institutional and private sector partners.

The expansion will include a $3-million investment in Laurier’s computational abilities. It is anticipated that once fully installed, the SHARCNET system will be the most powerful in Canada and will rank within the top 70 supercomputers in the world.

Laurier will host this year’s annual SHARCNET Fall Workshop from October 12 to 15. The workshop will feature expert talks on leading-edge high-performance computing hardware and computing strategies. Next spring, Laurier professor Ilias Kotsireas will be the program committee chair at the international symposium on high-performance computing systems and applications for SHARCNET. For more information, visit www.sharcnet.ca.

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