Q&A with Dr. Tiffani Williams for Smart Planet

Photo of Dr. Tiffani L. WilliamsDr. Tiffani L. Williams, associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University, was interviewed by Christina Hernandez Sherwood, a contributing writer for Smart Planet, July 29.

Read the article, "Q&A: Tiffani Williams, computer scientist, on creating an open source tree of life," online.

In the Q&A, Sherwood asked Williams insightful questions about her research project. In response to the question, "What is the tree of life and why should people care about it?," Williams gave examples of the human understanding of a family tree and the said, "It's this whole notion of understanding who we are and understanding our place in the world."

During the interview, Williams spelled out the complexity of her research in a way that is easily understood. The Open Source Tree of Life is an enormous research project, but Williams said there is a planned progress to meet the challenges and accomplish the goal of understanding the tree holistically.

Williams was selected as a Pop Tech Science Class of 2012 Fellow and is recognized for her creation of new algorithmic tools that are helping to reconstruct the Tree of Life.

Before joining the Texas A&M faculty in 2005, Williams was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of New Mexico. Since 2008 she is also an affiliate faculty member of the Interdisciplinary Research Program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Texas A&M. Her honors include the Denice Denton Emerging Leader Award, a Radcliffe Institute Fellowship, an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, and a McKnight Doctoral Fellowship.

Her research interests are in the areas of bioinformatics and computational biology, phylogeny, high-performance computing, optimization, and performance analysis. Williams earned her B.S. in computer science from Marquette University and Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Central Florida.