Cummings Named Interim Director of CBCB

Mon Jan 22, 2018

A noted expert in computational biology and molecular evolutionary genetics has just been named interim director of the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (CBCB).

Michael Cummings, a professor of biology with an appointment in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS), assumed leadership of CBCB on January 22.

He succeeds Eytan Ruppin, who started a new position as chief scientist of a cancer data science lab at the National Cancer Institute.

As interim director of CBCB, Cummings will help guide a diverse community of faculty, research scientists, postdocs, students and staff who are focused on research and scholarship arising from the genome revolution.

"I am privileged to collaborate with such a talented group of people, all of whom share a common interest of using powerful computational resources to gain a better understanding of how life works," says Cummings. "The work we do in CBCB—whether stemming the spread of cholera or other infectious diseases, helping curtail the use of harmful tobacco products, or analyzing synthetic DNA for possible biological threats—has a positive impact on the world we inhabit."

Cummings own research is focused on innovative experimental design and data analysis methods. This includes examining DNA sequence data for evolutionary inference, sampling of genetic diversity in relationship to conservation reserve design, hypothesis testing using tree-based statistical models, genetic differentiation, and more.

Cummings—working closely with doctoral student Daniel Ayres—was recognized last year by technology leader NVIDIA with a Global Impact Award for the development of innovative software that provides a rapid analysis of biological sequence data.

Known as BEAGLE, for Broad-platform Evolutionary Analysis General Likelihood Evaluator, the open-source software is an essential component in the software workflow of many scientists studying the evolutionary history of organisms, including the viruses that cause AIDS, influenza and Ebola.

Cummings came to the University of Maryland in 2003 as a visiting associate professor. He accepted full-time appointments in the Department of Biology and UMIACS in 2005.

Cummings received his doctorate in organismic and evolutionary biology from Harvard University in 1992, and completed postdoctoral research at the University of California, Berkeley, as an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow. He also did postdoctoral work at the University of California, Riverside.