Biography of David Sankoff

David Sankoff is known as one of the founding fathers of bioinformatics and computational biology. As stated by Pavel Pevzner, “[M. Waterman] and David Sankoff are responsible for transforming bioinformatics from a 'stamp collection' of ill-defined problems into a rigorous discipline with important biological applications. [Without such a transformation] bioinformatics would never have been able to attract the top talent in computer science and statistics, or the other members of the generation of talented young scientists who are working in the field today". David Sankoff has been at the origin of numerous fields in bioinformatics, starting with the fundamental problem of sequence alignment. In particular, he contributed to the early introduction of dynamic programming to computational biology. David has the reputation of asking the right questions, of being visionary, and of laying the foundations of numerous fields in comparative genomics, such as: sequence alignment, RNA folding, phylogeny reconstruction, gene order rearrangement, and long-term genomic evolution.

David currently holds the Canada Research Chair in Mathematical Genomics at the University of Ottawa. He joined the new Centre de recherches mathématiques (CRM) at Université de Montréal in 1969 and was also Professor in the Mathematics and Statistics Department from 1984 to 2002. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and of the International Society for Computational Biology and is active in the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. He is recipient of the Award for Excellence in Research from the University of Ottawa, medalist of the ``Association francophone pour le savoir'', recipient of the first Senior Scientist Accomplishment Award by the International Society for Computational Biology and the Weldon Memorial Prize from Oxford University. He was founding editor of Language Variation and Change (Cambridge) and serves on the editorial boards of a number of bioinformatics, computational biology and linguistics journals. David published his first paper in 1963, during his B. Sc. At McGill University. We are celebrating his 50th year of research contribution.