Interested in joining my group as a student or postdoc?

The primary objective of my research is to produce new algorithms and software that can dramatically improve phylogenetic analysis (whether in linguistics or in biology), as tested in simulation or on real data. Theoretical research is often done at the same time, using probability theory to predict performance under Markov models of evolution, but then testing these predictions in simulation. If you are a student who loves to design algorithms, likes the challenge of developing good heuristics for NP-hard optimization problems, loves to program, and enjoys collaborations (especially with scientists!), you may find this research area fun and rewarding. Absolutely no background in biology or linguistics is required. Research in my lab requires strong skills in algorithm design and analysis and software development. In addition, excellent interpersonal skills, oral and written communication skills, and a passion for research are also necessary. Overall, the required technical skills or coursework can be described by:

Undergraduate students: I welcome strong undergraduate students currently enrolled at UIUC from computational disciplines (CS, ECE, Statistics, and Mathematics) who are keenly interested in research, ambitious, and either planning to go to graduate school or considering this seriously. I can supervise projects that include testing and developing new computational methods in phylogenomics, analysis of biological datasets using different methods, etc. However, I do not take students who are in their senior year except under very unusual circumstances (e.g., when there is a record of prior work on very similar projects). Also, although I do sometimes offer summer research opportunities, these are only for students already doing research with me. Please see this page, which provides information on how to apply to do research with me.

Current UIUC Graduate students: Graduate students (whether MS or PhD) who are already enrolled at UIUC in CS, ECE, Statistics, or Mathematics, are encouraged to contact me about thesis research possibilities. If you are enrolled in another program (e.g., Bioengineering or some biology program), I can consider you for a project where I am a member of your thesis committee, but you will need to have someone else be your main supervisor.

Students applying for admission to a UIUC graduate program: If you are not yet admitted to a graduate program at UIUC, please note that admission to these programs is done by committees - not by individual faculty, and hence not by me! I encourage you to write to me about your interests, but please note that admission to a graduate program depends on meeting the expectations and standards of the graduate program and not just finding someone keen to advise you as a graduate student. In particular, successful applicants to the MS or PhD program in Computer Science typically are CS majors from strong CS undergraduate programs. If your undergraduate degree is not in CS, you may do better in applying to some other graduate program. You should check with the graduate programs that are potential good fits for you directly.

First semester is a rotation: The first semester is a rotation, generally spent on a specific research project in collaboration with other students, so that you can find out about the research area. However, all graduate students who wish to work with me must take my graduate course. You are encouraged to obtain the textbook for this course, Computational Phylogenetics: An introduction to designing methods for phylogeny estimation, published by Cambridge University Press. After a semester as a rotation student, you and I can discuss what you could do if you want to do a PhD in my lab. Please feel free to talk with my current or former students about working with me; the list of students is available here.

Prospective postdocs: If you are interested in joining the lab as a postdoc, then you should have all the required skills and coursework for graduate students (including programming skill, discrete mathematics, probability theory, and statistics). In addition, you should have already published several peer-reviewed papers in algorithms for phylogenetics, or in very closely related research (algorithms fo rmetagenomic analysis, multiple sequence alignment, etc.). Finally, you will need to provide three letters of reference. However, before applying for a postdoctoral position, please make sure your research interests and mine are closely aligned.

To find out more (for all students): If you are a student at UIUC and either an upper division undergraduate or a graduate student, then you should take my graduate class in Algorithmic Genomic Biology, or else obtain the textbook for the course and read it! The CS 581 course introduces students to computational phylogenomics, and many students do research as a course project. These research projects often result in published journal and conference papers, and thus are a great way to learn about the research area.

If you have not taken this course yet, please first read a few of my recent papers. In particular, the following is a good representative of the kinds of work I am doing in my three active projects (the parenthetical numbers refer to the number in my online publication list):

Contact me by email and let me know which of my papers you've read, what projects you'd like to work on, and what your background is (see above). You may also want to read some of the following introductory materials to this research area: