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Iman Hajirasouliha Receives NSERC Fellowship

Postdoctoral Research Associate Iman Hajirasouliha of Brown University’s Computer Science Department and the Center for Computational Molecular Biology (CCMB) has just received a Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) for his proposal (“Algorithms for constructing ancestral history of deep-sequenced tumors”) on cancer heterogeneity. Iman is the second member of BrownCS to receive the fellowship, joining Glencora Borradaile, who received hers in 2007.

“It’s very exciting and gratifying,” he says. “I knew that this fellowship is competitive, and I was thrilled that my proposal was accepted. It shows the importance of computational methods to help combat a very complex disease.”

Iman goes on to explain that we find ourselves at a pivotal moment in cancer research. Only in recent years have scientists discovered that mutations thought of collectively by the general public (for example, breast cancer or lung cancer) actually vary considerably from person to person. Perhaps even more interestingly, heterogeneous mutations can exist across a single tumor.

“The goal here and now,” Iman says, “is to characterize that heterogeneity.” The Postdoctoral Fellowships Program, which is in the amount of $40,000 per year for two years, offers an attractive opportunity to continue that effort. It was created to support researchers of promise at a crucial moment in their careers, with the goal of creating a pool of Canadians with top-quality research and scientific skills to supply the Canadian government, industry, and higher education system. NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowships are extremely competitive, and only a few are awarded each year to Canadians working at institutions in other countries.

“This fellowship is well-deserved,” says Ben Raphael, Associate Professor of BrownCS and Director of the CCMB, who has supervised Iman’s recent work. “He’s one of the star PhDs in his research area, and I’m equally proud of his abilities as a mentor and collaborator.”

Iman returns the compliment with a broad smile. “I’m really grateful to Ben and the colleagues of mine that have made this opportunity possible. Thank you all.”