Temple Smith Named ISCB Fellow

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Professor Temple Smith (BME)
Professor Temple Smith (BME)

The International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB) has elevated Professor Temple Smith (BME) to the rank of fellow for outstanding contributions to the fields of computational biology and bioinformatics. Smith’s rank was announced during the International Conference on Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology & European Conference on Computational Biology in Stockholm on July 1.

According to the ISCB, the rank of fellow honors members who have distinguished themselves through exceptional involvement and contributions in bioinformatics and computational biology. Smith’s career in bioinformatics spans parts of five decades. He has secured over $14 million in grant funding, published over 200 papers and helped organize the first international conferences in bioinformatics and molecular biology.

“(The rank of fellow) means your colleagues have recognized your achievements as something noteworthy,” Smith said. “The ISCB is one of the foremost organizations that help coordinate bioinformatics worldwide.”

Smith is best known for his involvement in the “Smith-Waterman algorithm,” a well-known algorithm for performing local sequence alignment. First proposed in 1981, the algorithm allows researchers to analyze and identify similar DNA, RNA and protein segments.

Smith was also responsible for the first international conference on bioinformatics when he organized “Genes and Machines,” a first-of-its-kind symposium that brought together biologists, mathematicians and computer scientists from throughout the globe in 1986. Smith also organized “Genes and Machines” in 1988 and 1990.

“At that time, there was no venue to bring together people with similar interests in molecular biology,” he said. “There is still no substitute for face-to-face communication, and I believe ‘Genes and Machines’ set the stage for the bioinformatics conferences that followed.”

Smith’s current research centers on the application of computer science and mathematical methods to comparative genetic sequence studies, the prediction and modeling of protein structure, and the evolution of the cellular information processing machinery. Smith is also involved in developing database structures suitable for large-scale genome sequencing and analysis using internet web page interfaces.

A member of the College of Engineering faculty since 1992, Smith’s academic experience includes the BU School of Medicine, where he taught from 1992 to 2002; a position in the Harvard School of Public Health and in the Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology Department at Harvard Medical School, where he has taught since 1985; and Northern Michigan University, where he served as professor of the Department of Physics from 1971 to 1985.

Smith will also be honored by the College of Engineering at a fall symposium on September 25 celebrating his retirement and emeritus appointment.