Gently persuaded

Oct 02, 2003, vol. 28, no. 3
By Howard Fluxgold

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A year ago, Cenk Sahinalp (left) wasn't planning any major changes in his work life.

He was an assistant professor of computer science at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio and a founding member of that university's centre for computational genomics. His wife, Funda Ergun, was also a faculty member.

However, a trip to SFU last year for a speaking engagement opened his eyes to the beauty of the Lower Mainland. With some gentle persuasion from faculty members in the school of computing science, Sahinalp, a specialist in algorithms and genomics and an avid skier, decided to move west.

“Although we were well settled in Ohio we noticed that Vancouver is our favorite city in the whole world,” he explains. Sahinalp's wife will teach algorithms and networking in the school of computing science starting in the spring semester.

“It's a big move to change countries, but I was impressed with the opportunities at SFU. And it will be easier to attract graduate and post-doctoral students to a place like Vancouver.”

Sahinalp is planning to establish a centre for computational genomics at SFU with the help of his colleagues. He is also looking to concentrate more on his research than administration, which he felt was taking too much of his time at Case Western.

He wants to conduct interdisciplinary research with colleagues in molecular biology and genetics that includes the genomic causes of a number of diseases, including birth defects such as spina bifida, as well as adult diseases such as certain types of cancer and osteoporosis. However, one colleague that he won't be doing research with is his wife.

“We tried that once and we argued too much,” he laughs while adding that they have co-authored a few papers.

Sahinalp is a tier 2 Canada research chair in computational genomics and has been awarded a $120,000 grant from the Advanced Systems Institute to pursue his research.

He is a native of Ankara, Turkey where he did his undergraduate degree at Bilkent University before completing his doctorate in computer science at the University of Maryland, College Park.

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