Borodovsky-Boguslavsky's Gift: Georgia Tech Couple Funds Prize for Bioinformatics

After devoting almost 35 years to the field of bioinformatics, Mark Borodovsky, a Regents Professor and director of the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Genomics, and his wife, Nadia Boguslavsky, a research scientist who recently retired after 25 years at Georgia Tech, are launching an Endowment for the Prize for Excellence in Bioinformatics. Open to Ph.D. students, the prize will both recognize and encourage successful research in bioinformatics at Tech.

“This recently established field of science develops new computational methods to analyze biological data generated by high-throughput technologies,” Borodovsky said. “We are talking about DNA sequences of genomes, the carriers of the genetic code of life evolving through millions and billions of years.”

The burgeoning field of bioinformatics “connects biology, computer science, math, physics, and chemistry, and is attractive to anyone who wants to understand the fundamental principles of the development of the whole tree of life,” Borodovsky said. Bioinformatics has great potential to solve real-world problems and improve people’s quality of life. One of the applications, for example, “is to help analyze genomic sequences of the Covid-19 virus determined in different countries, and to find segments important for vaccine development as well as to trace the patterns of the virus’s evolution” he said.

Borodovsky created the bioinformatics graduate program at Georgia Tech in 1999. It was the first Master of Science program in bioinformatics in the United States. The Ph.D. program followed in 2003, and “is interdepartmental, while the master’s program is based in the School of Biological Sciences,” he said. Georgia Tech currently has more than 400 bioinformatics program alumni — 351 from the master’s program and 57 from the Ph.D. program. Graduates work in industry, academia, and national laboratories across the country. 

“The bioinformatics program affords students remarkable interdisciplinary training that leaves them with a range of options for meaningful careers once they leave Georgia Tech,” said Susan Lozier, College of Sciences dean and Betsy Middleton and John Clark Sutherland Chair. “The College of Sciences is grateful to Mark Borodovsky and Nadia Boguslavsky for this gift — a sure sign of their dedication to the Institute and its students.”

The winner of the Prize for Excellence in Bioinformatics will be chosen by the dean of Sciences on the recommendation of a bioinformatics program committee of three faculty members representing three separate colleges.

In addition to their scientific and teaching work, Borodovsky and Boguslavsky have contributed to the Institute in other capacities. Boguslavsky has long been an active member of the Georgia Tech Faculty Women’s Club and served as a board member for the past three years. From 1997 to 2017 Borodovsky organized 11 Georgia Tech International Conferences in Bioinformatics, firmly placing Georgia Tech on the map as a key player in the field. In 1990, Borodovsky’s group was the only one conducting bioinformatics research at Georgia Tech. Today, more than 60 labs Institute-wide have bioinformatics and computational biology among their research directions. For developing novel and efficient algorithms for gene prediction in genomes of all domains of life — research work supported by multiple federal grant awards — Borodovsky was named a Fellow of the International Society of Computational Biology, recognition that he considers “the highest honor of the bioinformatics community.”

“Mark was instrumental in developing bioinformatics research and education at Georgia Tech, and we hope the prize, which we established to honor his 30 years at Georgia Tech, will keep that legacy alive,” Boguslavsky said.

“Bioinformatics is an exciting science presenting high intellectual challenge, along with potential for immediate applications in biotechnology and biomedicine. The enthusiasm I had when I started working in bioinformatics was very strong and continues to be so,” Borodovsky said. “I hope that new generations of researchers share the same enthusiasm for this fast growing field of science.”

Article by Jennifer Carlile, Institute Communications

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Lisa Redding, Bioinformatics Program Coordinator