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'Algorithms can be used in almost every area to solve different problems'

Devdatt Dubhashi conducts research in the field of algorithms related to bioinformatics and optimization. Devdatt Dubhashi’s work focuses to a large extent on designing algorithms that are intelligent enough to handle the extremely large data sets generated by the accelerating pace of new technology. There are virtually no limitations on the use of the algorithm – on the contrary they are often a prerequisite for solving many of the problems that modern society brings with it. This means an infinite area of challenges for a researcher.

An algorithm is an effective method expressed as a finite list of well-defined instructions for calculating a function.

Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary field where the researcher develops algorithms for analyzing biological data sets.

Optimization is about creating algorithms for different types of problems where you are looking for the optimal solution. It involves all areas in which it is extremely important to achieve efficiency. Optimization in terms of cost, transportation routes and search results are just some examples.

Devdatt Dubhashi carries on research in all these areas and through interdisciplinary work he has also become quite well versed in the other research areas that make use of his technology..

The Swegene project led Devdatt to the bioinformatics area

Devdatt Dubhashi is originally from India and he started his research career in the field of algorithms. Devdatt came to the Department of Computer Science and Engineering in 1999 and he subsequently discovered that a key national collaborative project had just started in Sweden under the name Swegene. The project was highly interdisciplinary, with researchers from mathematics, chemistry, computer science and biology.

"The Swegene project was a nice surprise for me when I arrived in Sweden," says Devdatt Dubhashi. "Biology is something that has always interested me and this project gave me an opportunity to acquaint myself more closely. It was the Swegene project that led me to my current research area."

Devdatt continues: "In the Swegene project there was a philosophy that the scientists should be forced more or less to get to know each other’s research areas. A researcher in cell and molecular biology and I often sat together in the same room trying to understand what the other person was doing. There wasn't much progress in the beginning and we had problems involving both language and subject barriers. The solution came in the form of a joint PhD student with dual master's degrees, one in biotechnology and one in computer science. The PhD student served as a bridge between our two disciplines and we could finally start genuine co-operation."

Calculation analyst in well developed collaboration with other areas

Devdatt Dubhashi has just taken up a part-time position as a researcher at Cellartis in Gothenburg. Cellartis specializes in stem cells and helps the pharmaceutical industry to develop new drugs – a very complicated and expensive process extending over several years. Stem cell research makes it possible to test the new drugs without, for example, using animals.

Devdatt’s task at Cellartis is to be the computing analyst for the data generated from microarrays. Microarrays have revolutionized the field of biology and life science. You can, for example, take a tissue you have used and put it on a microarray and the result is a map of all your genes. From the genetic information it is possible to see if you have a tendency to develop diabetes, cancer or other diseases.

Another example of using microarrays is when biologists map out cell properties. The microarrays provide entirely new opportunities to create a new knowledge base in terms of what the processes in the cells look like.

The role of the computer scientist in this process is to create the algorithms that will be able to sort the vast amounts of data generated. The work on creating the algorithms can only be done in very close collaboration with researchers in the mapped area. It is important to understand the needs of the field in question and the other researcher’s perspective. Devdatt says that it took him ten years of collaboration with researchers in biology before he could feel that he was in a position where he could understand on a deeper level how the biologists work.

Challenges of new technology

New technology poses new challenges for a computer scientist. The data sets that previously took about ten years to generate can now be created in a single day. It is a veritable explosion of data where you need to find both the technical and computational solutions to process them efficiently. In addition to the need for faster computers, there is also the demand for more and more intelligent algorithms to successfully extract the most interesting and relevant information from the colossal amounts of data.

The explosion in data volumes is of course not only the case in biology research fields but in all sorts of areas. Data collected from sensor networks is one example, another is the huge area of search optimization on the internet. Devdatt Dubhashi is hoping for greater co-operation in the future when it comes to areas such as computer security, computer architecture and language technology.

"That's why I'm so interested in the field of algorithms," says Devdatt Dubhashi. "It's based on basic mathematics but can be used in almost every area of modern society to solve problems!"

 
March 2011

Text: Catharina Jerkbrant
 


FACTS:

Devdatt Dubhashi graduated in Computer Science in India. He took his PhD at Cornell University, USA, and then spent two years as a postdoc at the Max Planck Institute in Germany. Devdatt then worked for two years as Assistant Professor at the University of Aarhus, Denmark, before joining the Department of Computer Science and Information Technology in Gothenburg (the Department is integrated between Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg) in 1999. In 2009, Devdatt Dubhashi was appointed Professor at Chalmers University of Technology.

Devdatt is involved in the Master’s programme in bioinformatics at Chalmers. The programme will be discontinued in 2011 although it will hopefully be run as part of the master’s programme in Computer Science at the University of Gothenburg.

 

Contact information:
Devdatt Dubhashi

Department of Computer Science and Engineering
+46 (0)31 772 10 46

Devdatt Dubhashi

Devdatt DubhashiDevdatt Dubhashi’s work focuses to a great extent on designing algorithms that are intelligent enough to handle the extremely large data sets that are generated by the accelerating pace of new technology.

Page Manager: Catharina Jerkbrant|Last update: 10/3/2011
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