Three Bioengineering faculty members invested as named professors

04/03/2015 - 4:29pm

Jun Song and Tandy Warnow were honored recently as two of the first Founder Professors in the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Song is a professor in Bioengineering and Physics and a theoretical biophysicist who focuses on computational biology and biomedicine. Warnow is a professor in Bioengineering and Computer Science who develops algorithms to address complex issues in phylogenomics (the intersection of evolution and genomics) and metagenomics (the study of genetic material in the environment). Brian T. Cunningham, a professor in Bioengineering whose research advances photonic crystal-based biosensing, was named a Donald Biggar Willett Professor in the College of Engineering. The investiture ceremony took place Feb. 26 at the Illinois campus.

Song’s research on gene expression has implications for prognosis and treatment of cancer. He is a co-principal investigator on the new Knowledge Engine for Genomics Center of Excellence in Big Data Computing, supported by the National Institutes of Health, and co-investigator on the National Science Foundation Physics Frontiers Center. He works primarily at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology.

Warnow’s work was featured recently in a series of articles in the journal Science about the Avian Phylogenomics Project, which used the genomic sequences of 48 bird species to develop a new understanding of the evolutionary family tree of birds. She also has applied her work to historical linguistics, developing and using statistical models to capture the evolution of languages and to develop and implement statistically based and combinatorial methods to reconstruct language phylogenies.

Cunningham’s research with biosensors has allowed for the detection of cancer cells and the amount of HIV virus in the human body. He’s also developed applications that detect allergens in food and screen for crop pests in agriculture. Recently named director of the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory at Illinois, Cunningham also is affiliated with the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology and the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology.

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