July 05, 2007

Faculty member plays key role in major conference

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. — A computer science faculty member at Southern Illinois University Carbondale is playing a key role in an upcoming bioinformatics conference at Harvard University.

Mengxia "Michelle" Zhu, assistant professor of computer science in SIUC's College of Science, is vice chair of the program committee for the seventh annual International Symposium on Bioinformatics and Bioengineering, Oct. 14-17. Zhu also serves on the steering committee and as organizing chair for the event, which highlights the latest research in the complimentary health care disciplines.

Mehdi R. Zargham, chairperson of the Department of Computer Science, said Zhu will do a good job representing the University.

"Dr. Zhu is a dedicated scientist and very knowledgeable in the field of bioinformatics," Zargham said. "Within a short period of time at SIUC, she has been able to obtain an international reputation in this area."

The conference focuses on advancements in new technologies under development and research in complex medical and biological systems, agriculture, environment, public health and drug design, among other areas.

More than 200 leading researchers from around the world have submitted papers for the conference, one of the best of its kind in the world. Zhu said organizers expect to receive about 400 papers.

One of Zhu's main tasks is organizing a workshop titled "Joint Research on Bioinformatics and Bioengineering in Midwest and Southern Illinois University Conference." The workshop will advance fundamental concepts in molecular biology and medicine and help researchers understand living organisms at multiple levels, Zhu said. The research could help researchers develop innovative implants and prosthetics and new medical imaging technologies, as well as diagnostic tools.

The workshop will provide a platform for Midwest researchers, along with those from the SIU system, to "cross-fertilize" ideas, Zhu said.

"It will helps shape knowledge and scientific achievements by bridging these two very important and complimentary disciplines into an interactive and attractive forum," she said. Along with SIU, sponsors include Oak Ridge National Laboratory, University of Tennessee at Knoxville and the University of Oklahoma at Norman.

"I believe this will be a good showcase for our distinguished research work in the field at SIU," Zhu said.

Zhu currently is conducting summer research as part of her appointment at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.