Smith Elected AAAS Fellow

in BME Spotlight Faculty, ENG Spotlight Faculty, NEWS

Recognized for contributions to bioinformatics

By Michael G Seele

Professor Emeritus Temple Smith
Professor Emeritus Temple Smith

Professor Emeritus Temple Smith (BME) has been elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society. AAAS Fellows are elected from the organization’s membership for their distinguished contributions to science and technology.

“This is an unexpected honor, to be recognized by such a national scientific organization and given the many known past inducted follows a bit humbling,” Smith said.

Smith, a leader in bioinformatics and computational biology, was elected as a member of AAAS’ Section on Biological Sciences. He will be among the newly elected Fellows recognized at the AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, in February.

Shortly after earning his PhD in physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Smith joined the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he helped found GenBank (the repository of all known DNA sequences) and began applying computational mathematics to biological problems. In the nascent field of bioinformatics, Smith and colleague Michael Waterman of the University of Southern California were among those searching for a reliable mathematical method for identifying segments of DNA encoding proteins of similar function from different organisms. The resulting Smith-Waterman sequence alignment algorithm became the standard tool underlying most DNA and protein sequence comparison, and their article on the topic remains one of the most referenced papers in molecular biology.

Smith joined the Biomedical Engineering Department faculty in 1991 and established the BioMolecular Engineering Research Center, which focuses on the development and application of computational methods for the analysis and design of biological macromolecules and the reconstruction of their evolutionary history.