Tandy Warnow

Tandy Warnow
Tandy Warnow
Grainger Distinguished Chair in Engineering
(217) 300-3087
3235 Siebel Center for Comp Sci

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Professional development: Warnow received her PhD in Mathematics at UC Berkeley (1991) under the direction of Gene Lawler, and did postdoctoral training with Simon Tavare and Michael Waterman at the University of Southern California (1991-1992). After positions at Sandia National Laboratories (1992-1993), University of Pennsylvania (1993-1998), and the University of Texas (1998-2014), she joined the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a Founder Professor of Engineering. She is now Associate Head for Computer Science, and has affiliate faculty appointments in Bioengineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mathematics, Statistics, and several biology departments.

Awards: She received the National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award in 1994, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation Award in Science and Engineering in 1996, a Radcliffe Institute Fellowship in 2006, and a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship for 2011. She was elected a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) in 2015 and of the International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB) in 2017.

Teaching: At the undergraduate level, Warnow teaches courses in discrete mathematics and algorithm design and analysis, and use problems from computational biology to demonstrate the applications of these skills and techniques to real world problems. At the graduate level, Warnow teaches CS 581: Algorithmic Computational Genomics. The main focus of CS 581 is on phylogeny (evolutionary tree) estimation, but the course also covers the related problems of computing multiple sequence alignments, genome assembly, and analyzing microbiomes. Students will learn the mathematical and computational foundations in these areas, read the current literature, and do a team research project. The techniques involved include discrete algorithms, graph theory, simulations, and probabilistic analysis of algorithms. Course website: http://tandy.cs.illinois.edu/581-2018.html.

Leadership roles: Warnow has had several leadership roles in international consortia, including Genome 10K, the Avian Phylogenomics Project and the Thousand Plant Transcriptome Initiative. She was also the Director of the CIPRES (Cyber-Infrastructure for Phylogenetics Research) project (funded by a large ITR grant from NSF), which had more than 10 universities around the country, trained more than 50 PhD students (including many of the computer scientists now working in computational biology), and led to the establishment of the CIPRES Gateway. She also chaired the NIH study section for Biodata Management and Analysis (BDMA), and was the main program officer at NSF for the BIg Data solicitation.

Research contributions:  Warnow's main research is in algorithms for statistical estimation problems in computational biology and historical linguistics. Among her major contributions are advances in mathematical foundations in phylogenetics and methods for multiple sequence alignment, for species tree estimation from multi-gene datasets, and for metagenomic taxon identification. Warnow's collaboration with linguist Don Ringe (Univ of Pennsylvania) led to a rigorous approach to inferring evolutionary histories (both trees and networks) for natural languages, and settled several outstanding conjectures for Indo-European.



  • International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB), Award for "Accomplishment by a Senior Scientist" (2024)
  • 2023 Campus Award for Excellence in Faculty Mentoring (2023)
  • 2022 College Award for Excellence in Faculty Mentoring, Grainger College of Engineering 2022 (2022)
  • Fellow of the Association of the Advancement of Science (AAAS) (2021)
  • Fellow of the International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB) (2017)
  • Fellow of the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) (2015)
  • John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship (2010)
  • Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study (2003)
  • David and Lucile Packard Foundation Fellowship in Science and Engineering (1996)

Recent Courses Taught

  • BIOE 540 (CS 581) - Algorithmic Genomic Biology
  • CS 173 - Discrete Structures
  • CS 196 73 - Freshman Honors
  • CS 591 BIO - Bioinformatics and Computation