Eugene Myers, Director Emeritus at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG) and the Center for Systems Biology Dresden (CSBD), and Webb Miller, professor in the department of biology and the department of computer science and engineering at The Pennsylvania State University, received the first, newly created IEEE Frances E. Allen Medal at the 2022 IEEE Honors Ceremony on May 6. The IEEE Frances E. Allen Medal was established in 2020, is sponsored by IBM, and honors Frances E. Allen, computer scientist and pioneer in the field of optimizing compilers, who died on August 4, 2020. The medal is awarded to an individual or to a team of recipients for innovative work in computing that leads to lasting impact on other aspects of engineering, science, technology, or society.
Congratulations, Gene and Webb!
Myers and Miller receive the award for their pioneering contributions to sequence analysis algorithms and their applications to biosequence search, genome sequencing, and comparative genome analyses. The computational innovations of Eugene Myers and Webb Miller have been central to progress on the most important tasks in DNA and protein sequence data analysis, directly enabling the genomic revolution in biological science and medicine. During the mid to late 1980s, they worked as a team to develop many seminal methods, which culminated in the famous BLAST search engine, where they developed the “seed-and-extend” paradigm using the idea of sequence neighborhoods to achieve a search speed for approximate match that still stands today. Independently, both Myers and Miller have continued to shape the field of molecular biology. Myers has made critical contributions to the genome assembly problem of how to reconstruct entire genome sequences billions of bases long from short pieces on the order of 1000 bases. He made the case for applying whole genome shotgun assembly to large genomes such as the human genome, and then did so at Celera Genomics in 2001. Myers is currently a co-leader of the Vertebrate Genomes Project, which aims to provide high-quality reference genome sequences for all vertebrates. Miller has worked on the important problem of how to calculate and represent the sequence alignments that represents evolutionary relationships between whole genome sequences.
IEEE is the world’s largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity. The new IEEE Frances E. Allen Medal recognizes the contributions of Frances “Fran” E. Allen as an American computing pioneer. Allen helped design and build Alpha, a high-level code-breaking language that featured the ability to create new alphabets beyond the system-defined ones. Among her many awards, Allen was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1987, became the first female IBM Fellow in 1989, and in 2006, became the first woman to win the Turing Award.