6 out of 200: Nikita Alexeev is investigating the driving forces of evolution

BLOG: Heidelberg Laureate Forum

Laureates of mathematics and computer science meet the next generation
Heidelberg Laureate Forum
alexeev3
Photo courtesy of Nikita Alexeev

Meet Nikita Alexeev in this Q&A series with 6 out of 200 computer scientists and mathematicians participating at the 4th Heidelberg Laureate Forum, September 18-23, 2016. 22 Laureates (Abel Prize, Fields Medal, Nevanlinna Prize, Turing Award) will attend the forum together with them. For a full week Heidelberg, in Germany will be the hot spot of mathematics and computer science.

What is your name and where are you from? My name is Nikita Alexeev, and I am Russian

Where did you study and where are you currently based? I studied at the Saint-Petersburg State University (Russia) and got my PhD there. Now I am working at the Computational Biology Institute at the George Washington University, Washington DC, USA.

What is your current position? I am a postdoc.

What is the focus of your research? My current research is on the edge between comparative genomics and graph theory. One of my current projects is about understanding random graph models (like the Erdos-Renyi model) in connection with rearrangements of chromosomes, which is one of the driving forces of evolution. The goal of the method we developed is to estimate the evolutionary distance (the number of rearrangements) between species under the assumption that the rearrangements occurred randomly along the chromosomes. As a result, one can build a phylogeny more precisely using our method.

(a) Genome graph of unichromosomal genome P = (0,1,2,3,4,5) with adjacency edges colored black. (b) Genome graph of unichromosomal genome Q = (0, −2, −1, 3, −5, −4) with adjacency edges colored red. (c) The breakpoint graph G(P, Q) of genomes P and Q represents a collection of black-red cycles. Figure from Alexeev and Alekseyev, arXiv:1510.08002v1 q-bio.GN (2015)
(a) Genome graph of unichromosomal genome P = (0,1,2,3,4,5) with adjacency edges colored black. (b) Genome graph of unichromosomal genome Q = (0, −2, −1, 3, −5, −4) with adjacency edges colored red. (c) The breakpoint graph G(P, Q) of genomes P and Q represents a collection of black-red cycles. Figure from Alexeev and Alekseyev, arXiv:1510.08002v1 q-bio.GN (2015)

Why did you become a mathematician? I had very good teachers in high school, and they showed me the beauty of abstract mathematical constructions. Being a student I was impressed by the variety of applications of maths in different areas. At that point I decided that this was what I wanted to do professionally.

What do you see yourself doing in 10 years? I hope to continue to apply and develop mathematical concepts in biology.

What are you doing besides research? Professionally I like teaching – this really makes me happy. During vacations, I like traveling and especially hiking.

Why did you apply for the HLF? I really hope I will be able to see the big picture in math and science one day. I believe the HLF is a very good place to learn how the most prominent scientists see the world.

What do you expect from this meeting? I expect to find a lot of new connections with people from different areas of math and computer science. I am also really excited about hearing what the laureates have to share with us.200-große-Punkte

Which laureates present at the forum would you really like to talk to? I hope to have a chance to talk with all of them.

Tobias Maier

Tobias Maier ist promovierter Molekularbiologe mit über zehn Jahren Forschungserfahrung an internationalen Instituten. Er ist Wissenschaftlicher Leiter am Nationalen Institut für Wissenschaftskommunikation (NaWik) in Karlsruhe. Seit 2008 schreibt Tobias das Blog WeiterGen auf den deutschen ScienceBlogs und twittert unter @WeiterGen. --- Tobias Maier is a science communication professional with a ten year track record in biomedical research. He’s the scientific head at the National Institute for Science Communication in Germany (NaWik). Tobias writes a blog on the German ScienceBlogs network and he’s on Twitter as @WeiterGen

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