Heng Li, PhD Receives 2021 Sloan Fellowship

Heng Li, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biomedical informatics, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, is the recipient of a 2021 Sloan Fellowship from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

From the Sloan Foundation press release: “Awarded annually since 1955, Sloan Fellowships honor extraordinary U.S. and Canadian researchers whose creativity, innovation, and research accomplishments make them stand out as the next generation of scientific leaders. A Sloan Research Fellowship is one of the most prestigious awards available to young researchers, in part because so many past Fellows have gone on to become towering figures in the history of science.”

“Heng is one of the most prolific idea generators and tool builders in computational biology,” says Rafael A. Irizarry, PhD, department chair, and professor of Applied Statistics at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “He is also one of the most humble academics I know, so I am particularly delighted that he has been honored with this prestigious award.”

An expert in analyzing next-generation genomic sequencing data, Li is the principal developer of several software projects. His portfolio includes: SAMtools, the Burrows-Wheeler Aligner, the Mapping and Assembling with Quality (Maq) alignment tool, Treesoft, and TreeFam. The Li Lab at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute studies advanced computational methods to analyze large-scale biological sequence data and to solve practical problems in biomedical research.

“Heng was one of the first people to develop fast and memory-efficient software for processing genomic data sets,” says Irizarry. “His technology took cancer research to a whole new level. It allows us to process in minutes what previously took months.”

Li earned his doctorate from the Institute of Theoretical Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2006. Prior to his appointment at Dana-Farber, he investigated genetic causes of disease at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

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