Wu Feng of the computer science and electrical and computer engineering departments in Virginia Tech's College of Engineering, and Ali Butt, also of the computer science department, were recently named as recipients of IBM Faculty Awards.

Feng was honored for his work in large-scale bioinformatics and computational biology and Butt for his work on application-tailored distributed computing. According to IBM, these awards are “internationally competitive,” and candidates are required to have an outstanding reputation for contributions in their field.

"I am honored to have received an IBM Faculty Award. This award provides a timely opportunity to continue our ongoing relationship with IBM in the large-scale life sciences," Feng said. "With genomic sequence databases doubling in size every 12 months, databases are arguably growing at a rate faster than we can compute on them; thus, large-scale search of these sequence databases has become a necessity. In addition, the aforementioned databases only consider sequences that have been traditionally cultivated and only represent at most 1 percent of the microbial diversity,” Feng added.

“The emergence of the new science of metagenomics will provide access to the remaining 99 percent of microbial diversity. However, this in turn will further accelerate the growth rate of the sequence databases; thus, parallel sequence-search tools like mpiBLAST aim to address this emerging challenge," said Feng. Find more information on mpiBLAST online.

Butt noted, “In our work, we are exploring how to design emerging distributed computing systems, oftentimes referred to as cloud computing, for supporting very large and complex enterprise and scientific applications on hundreds and thousands of computing resources. Cloud computing has the potential of changing the information technology industry in profound ways. However, programming such systems requires careful consideration as the current techniques for doing so are not very well understood. Thus, many of the current setups have to be hand-tuned through trial and error, for every application and configuration.”

“This award will enable us to develop a simulation-based planning tool that captures various aspects of a cloud computing setup and makes deployment far easier by automating the design process and customizing it to application requirements,” Butt concluded.

The IBM Faculty Awards Program is a competitive worldwide program intended to foster collaboration between researchers at leading universities worldwide and those in IBM research, development and service organizations; and promote courseware and curriculum innovation to stimulate growth in disciplines and geographies that are strategic to IBM.