Pagel earns top honors at ISMB/ECCB Conference

ISMBE/ECCB Conference

Kymberleigh Pagel, a Ph.D. candidate in Informatics at the School of Informatics and Computing, was honored with the Ian Lawson Van Toch Memorial Award for Outstanding Student Paper at the Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology conference held in Prague July 21-25.

The award, which is given to the student who presents the most thought-provoking original paper at the ISMB Conference as judged by a panel of experts, is considered one of the highlights of the conference and is one of the highest honors in the field of bioinformatics.

“The Ian Lawson Van Toch Memorial Award for Outstanding Student Paper is an incredible honor both personally and professionally,” Pagel said. “Professionally, this award will bring more attention to the published work and aid in my future career prospects. The award has given me motivation and inspiration beyond measure, which will be invaluable in the challenging pursuit of a doctoral degree.”

Pagel’s paper, “When loss-of-function is loss of function: assessing mutational signatures and impact of loss-of-function genetic variants,” studied the impact of loss-of-function mutations in genes, which is a mutation that renders the gene inactive. The paper argued that the difficulty in assessing the mutations is underappreciated, and Pagel and her group developed a machine-learning tool, called MutPred-LOF, which predicts both the pathogenicity and function impact of the most damaging types of human genetic mutations.

“The tool may be used to improve our understanding of genetic diseases and point toward novel pharmaceutical solutions,” Pagel said.

Pagel’s research is the latest advancement in the field of bioinformatics at SoIC, which continues to build its reputation as a seat of innovation.

“We’re thrilled that the stellar work coming out of the bioinformatics group at Indiana University continues to be recognized around the world,” said Predrag Radivojac, a professor of computer science and informatics and one of Pagel’s mentors. “Kym's work addresses an important biological and computational problem, and will play a key role in answering questions regarding genome interpretation and human disease.”

Pagel also is the second recipient of the Ian Lawson Von Toch Award in the past four years for IU. Wyatt Clark, who earned his Ph.D. in informatics from SoIC, took home the honor from the conference in 2013.

“The field of bioinformatics has the potential to make a huge impact on us all, and it’s clear the research being conducted by both our faculty and our students is pushing the boundaries of what is possible,” said Raj Acharya, dean of SoIC. “Such a prestigious award is certainly a sign of the quality of work being done at the student level.”

Pagel also hopes her research and success in the field will inspire others to follow in her footsteps.

“The field of bioinformatics requires a strong foundation in computer science, mathematics, and, of course, biological fundamentals,” Pagel said. “I feel that a genuine interest and drive for the field, combined with strong mentorship, leads to the natural persistence that is required to succeed.”

For more information on bioinformatics at SoIC, visit our website.

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