SFU computing science alumnus named 2017 Sloan Research Fellow
By Suraaj Aulakh
When Fereydoun Hormozdiari graduated from Simon Fraser University’s School of Computing Science with a PhD in 2011, he had already authored major research publications, including papers in the journals Nature and Genome Research. His hard work and success has continued into his professional career, as he has now been named a 2017 Sloan Research Fellow for his work in computational and evolutionary molecular biology.
“It is a great honor to be named as one of the Sloan Research Fellows,” says Hormozdiari, who is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis).
“As a junior faculty member, this award will not only help in funding parts of my research but it will also help in attracting strong students and postdocs and getting additional funding.”
Since 1955, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has been awarding this fellowship to outstanding early-career scientists from various disciplines. This year, 126 researchers across Canada and the United States of America were selected to receive this prestigious fellowship, which includes $60,000 towards their research.
The selection process is detailed and thorough—after being nominated by fellow scientists, candidates are screened by senior scholars and judged based on their research accomplishments and potential to become a scientific leader.
This honour is often seen as a sign of future success—many researchers go on to win other awards and recognition for their work. In fact, 43 former Sloan Research Fellows later also received a Noble Prize in their fields.
At UC Davis, Hormozdiari’s research focuses on developing novel computational algorithms to study the human genome and get a better understanding of neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism. He hopes to eventually develop approaches that allow for early prediction and diagnosis of complex diseases.
“The ultimate goal would be to predict these disorders long before any symptoms appear.”
Hormozdiari credits his experience at SFU for helping him get to where he is now.
“I would highly advise students to take advantage of the great computing science community SFU has to offer. I was very fortunate to do my graduate studies under the supervision of professor S. Cenk Sahinalp and during that time I learned to enjoy my research in computational biology.”
“It is always wonderful to hear about the amazing accomplishments of our graduates,” says Greg Mori, Director of the School of Computing Science. “Fereydoun’s focus on using computational biology to study and predict diseases could one day significantly impact the way a patient is diagnosed. This award is well-deserved and is a great example of the success our students and alumni can achieve.”
This isn’t the first time that the Sloan Research Fellowship has been awarded to a researcher affiliated with the School of Computing Science. In 2016, professor Leonid Chindelevitch was named a Sloan Research Fellow, also for his work in computational and evolutionary molecular biology.