Pop Gives Keynote Talk on Use of Algorithms in Microbial Research

Wed Aug 22, 2018

Mihai Pop, a professor of computer science and interim director of the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, recently gave a keynote talk on the use of algorithms in bioinformatics.

Pop spoke at ALGO 2018, an annual meeting combining the premier algorithmic conference, European Symposium on Algorithms, and a number of other specialized conferences and workshops, all related to algorithms and their applications.

The symposium was held from Aug. 20–24 in Helsinki.

Pop’s talk, “From Clustering to Variant Discovery: Algorithmics Opportunities in Microbiome Research,” covered the emergence of metagenomics—the sequencing-based exploration of the genomic content of microbial communities.

Pop says that metagenomics has made it possible to characterize the genomes, and even functions of microbes, that cannot currently be grown in a laboratory. As a result, new microbes and new microbial functions have been discovered in recent years.

In addition to this transformative effect on biology, the analysis of metagenomic data has created new opportunities for computational research. Pop focused his talk on algorithmic challenges related to sequence clustering, functional annotation, and structural variant discovery. He also described recent results from his lab in these areas, and discussed several challenges in metagenomics that his group is currently working on.

“Millions of good and bad intestinal bacteria have a very complicated, and partly unknown, way of interacting with each other,” Pop says. “We have focused particularly on studying the intestinal bacteria of children in developing countries, but our algorithmic tools can also be used in cancer research.”