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News Release

For immediate use 

May 27, 2005 -- No. 259

Computer scientist receives
first Microsoft faculty fellowship

CHAPEL HILL -- Dr. Wei Wang, assistant professor of computer science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been named one of five recipients of the first Microsoft New Faculty Fellowship Awards.

The awards, announced Wednesday (May 25) by Microsoft Research, recognize and support early-career professors who demonstrate "exceptional talent for novel computer research and thought leadership in their disciplines."

Selected from a pool of 110 nominees representing universities nationwide, each fellow will receive a $200,000 grant to pursue innovative research in computer science. The recipients also have the opportunity to explore collaborations with some of the top researchers working in their areas of interest at Microsoft Research.

Wang, who joined UNCís College of Arts and Sciences faculty in July 2002, also is a member of UNCís Carolina Center for Genome Sciences. She was a research staff member at the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center from 1999 to 2002.

She specializes in the area of data mining, a branch of computer science focusing on finding patterns within vast data collections. She teaches graduate courses in data mining and bioinformatics and this fall will teach a new undergraduate class on bioalgorithms.

Her research involves developing algorithms to find structural patterns in protein databases, which may be used to classify and provide hypotheses for the functions of unknown proteins.

"Proteins are the building blocks of life," said Wang. "Understanding their function is essential to curing diseases, as well as understanding the many mysteries of life."

The fellowship will allow her to pursue nontraditional collaborations with researchers in genetics, biochemistry and pharmacology, she said.

Wang has filed seven patents, and has published one monograph and more than 70 research papers in international journals and major peer-reviewed conference proceedings. She also recently received a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award, which supports outstanding new teacher-scholars.

"We have much to learn and much to gain from todayís talented young minds," said Rick Rashid, senior vice president of Microsoft Research in announcing the fellowship recipients.

"Even early in their teaching careers, these award winners are pushing the boundaries of computer science research in exciting new directions," he said. "The intellectual curiosity, creative drive and thought leadership they demonstrate is exactly the sort of initiative we seek to encourage in developing programs like the New Faculty Fellowship Awards."

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Photo URL: www.unc.edu/news/pics/faculty/wang_wei.jpg

College of Arts and Sciences contact: Dee Reid, (919) 843-6339 or deereid@unc.edu

Department of computer science contact: Kelli Gaskill, (919) 962-1790 or gaskill@cs.unc.edu