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UTSW assistant professor chosen for $1.5 million Data-Driven Discovery award from Gordon

UT Southwestern Medical Center

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Credit: UT Southwestern

DALLAS - Oct. 24, 2014 - Dr. Kimberly Reynolds, Assistant Professor in the Cecil H. and Ida Green Comprehensive Center for Molecular, Computational, and Systems Biology and in the Department of Biophysics at UT Southwestern Medical Center, has been named one of 14 Moore Investigators in Data-Driven Discovery.

The new awards are given to researchers in fields ranging from astronomy and biology to computer science and statistics as part of a $60 million, five-year Data-Driven Discovery Initiative within the Palo Alto, California-based Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation's Science Program. The initiative is one of the largest privately funded data science programs committed to supporting interdisciplinary, data-driven researchers. Dr. Reynolds will receive an unrestricted $1.5 million grant over five years.

"I am thrilled to be selected as one of the Gordon and Betty Moore Data-Driven Discovery Investigators," she said. "This award will greatly further my research program, providing the support to pursue our most exciting ideas."

At UT Southwestern, Dr. Reynolds directs a laboratory that uses statistical analysis of protein sequences and genomic data to search for evolutionary "design principles" for cellular systems. Her approach holds the potential of revealing a new strategy for understanding the information content of the genome, which could, in turn, provide fundamental insights into how biological systems work.

"My lab is developing analytical methods to compare genome information across species, with the basic idea that we can use this information to create statistical models for how cellular systems are built," she explained. "In principle, knowledge of the statistical constraints underlying the design of cellular systems would provide practical rules for the engineering of pathways with industrial or medical relevance, and those rules would provide a context for understanding the molecular basis of disease-causing mutations."

Dr. Reynolds is one of the Green Center's primary faculty members, a prestigious list that includes 1988 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry Dr. Johann Deisenhofer, Professor with the Green Center and Biophysics, who holds the Virginia and Edward Linthicum Distinguished Chair in Biomolecular Science; and Green Center Director Dr. Rama Ranganathan, Dr. Reynolds' postdoctoral mentor.

Dr. Ranganathan's laboratory uses a combination of theory and experiment to investigate how complex biological systems work and evolve. The goal is to solve one of life's enduring mysteries: How biological systems are built to simultaneously exhibit high-performance, robustness, and the ability to adapt to changing conditions without the usual tradeoffs seen in man-made engineered systems.

"This award will give Kimberly considerable flexibility in establishing a really innovative new research program. In many areas of biology we are awash in data but don't know what the data mean. The ability to analyze large datasets using new computational methods is going to be critical to our understanding of biology and medicine," said Dr. Ranganathan, Professor of Biophysics and Pharmacology, who holds the Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Chair in Biomedical Science.

"This is the first time that someone at UT Southwestern has won an award of this nature in such a broad field of basic computational science. Usually these sorts of awards go to big, comprehensive universities with traditional physical science departments. This is very significant for us," he added.

Dr. Reynolds received her undergraduate training in biochemistry at Rice University and earned her Ph.D. in biophysics at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2006, followed by her postdoctoral fellowship at UT Southwestern, where she studied the evolution and engineering of allosteric communication between proteins.

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Other 2014 Moore Investigators in Data-Driven Discovery came from Carnegie Mellon University, Dartmouth College, North Carolina State University, Princeton University, Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley (3), University of California, Davis, University of Chicago, University of Florida, University of Illinois, and the University of Washington.

Gordon Moore was a co-founder of both Intel and Fairchild Semiconductor. He and his wife Betty established the foundation "to create positive change for future generations."

About UT Southwestern Medical Center

UT Southwestern, one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution's faculty includes many distinguished members, including six who have been awarded Nobel Prizes since 1985. Numbering more than 2,700, the faculty is responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and is committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide medical care in 40 specialties to about 92,000 hospitalized patients and oversee approximately 2.1 million outpatient visits a year.

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