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USC Medallion Goes to Starnes, Waterman
The acclaimed surgeon and 'father of computational biology' are given the university's highest distinction at the Academic Honors Convocation.
USC News, April 16, 2008

Vaughn A. Starnes and Michael Waterman are this year's recipients of the university's highest honor, the Presidential Medallion.

USC President Steven B. Sample presented the awards at the 27th annual Academic Honors Convocation April 7 at Town & Gown.

Starnes, an internationally renowned surgeon, has been a pioneer in cardiothoracic surgery, heart and lung transplantation and repair of congenital heart defects. He is also acclaimed for his expertise in heart surgery for newborns and children.

In 1990, Starnes performed the world's first lobar transplant using a lung segment from a living donor. Three years later, he performed the first live donor, double-lobar lung transplant on a patient with cystic fibrosis. He has conducted more living donor lung transplants than any other surgeon in the United States.

University Professor Michael Waterman, President Steven B. Sample and
USC Distinguished Professor Vaughn Starnes, from left, at the Town & Gown event

Appointed as a USC Distinguished Professor in 2004, he is the founding executive director of the university's CardioVascular Thoracic Institute. He also directs the residency program for congenital cardiac surgery at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.

Sample told the assembled guests that Starnes was being recognized "for his significant contributions to cardiothoracic medicine and transplantation, his distinguished career as a healer and educator, and his dedication to the advancement of human health and well-being."

Speaking about Waterman, Sample said that the University Professor, a member of the USC faculty since 1982, "is widely regarded as the founding father of computational biology."

The interdisciplinary field uses mathematics, statistics and computer science to study molecular mechanisms and attempts to unlock the mysteries of life itself.

He co-developed the Smith-Waterman algorithm for gene and protein sequence comparison and the Lander-Waterman formulas for physical mapping and sequencing. This second algorithm made it possible for the biotech firm Celera Genomics to accelerate and complete sequencing of the human genome well in advance of the government-funded Human Genome Project.

He is the principal investigator for the USC Center of Excellence in Genomic Science, a founding editor of the Journal of Computational Biology and a member in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences and the Institut de France Academie des Sciences, among other associations.

Dedicated to enriching campus life, for years he has overseen academic and social activities for students as faculty master at USC's International Residential College at Parkside.

The medallion, Sample said, was awarded to Waterman "for his pioneering work in computational biology, his distinguished career as a scientist and educator, and his dedication to the well-being of USC's community of scholars."


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