PhD, University of Maryland, 1986
MS, University of Maryland, 1981
My group applies advanced computational and mathematical techniques to problems in modern biology and public health. We develop analysis algorithms, software tools and models that help biologists to characterize biological systems. For example consider the Plasmodium falciparum parasite, which is responsible for an estimated 350–500 million annual episodes of clinical malaria, with more than 1 million deaths per year. The life cycle of this parasite is extraordinarily complex and exhibits stage-specific regulation of nearly all its genes. The regulatory mechanisms of gene expression, if they can be identified and characterized, are a potentially rich source of targets for drugs and vaccines.
How the parasite performs such extensive regulation remains largely unknown, and may be quite unconventional. Several lines of evidence suggest that non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) may play a significant role in regulating genome-wide expression patterns in this parasite. With funding from a Malaria Research Institute pilot grant, our group is developing an ab initio computational strategy for detecting rapidly evolving ncRNA genes.
Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate intracellular parasite that causes encephalitis, pneumonia, myocarditis, ocular disease, and congenital birth defects. We have collaborated with the Carruthers lab to develop mathematical models of the host-parasite interaction during the host-cell invasion stage.