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Temple F. Smith

Temple F. Smith

Prof. Emeritus
Boston University


Dr. Temple Smith graduated with a Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics from the University of Colorado in 1969. Then did a National Institutes of Health (USA) postdoctoral fellowship under the direction of the mathematician, Stanislaw Ulam, and the molecular biologist, John Sadler. There he carried out a detailed analysis of the E. coli Lac operator mutations. In 1979, Dr. Smith was one of the founders of GenBank, initially at Los Alamos National Laboratory. There, he with Walter Goad developed a statistical mechanical model of the Lac operon system similar to those now being developed in system biology. Dr. Smith is a co-developer with Michael Waterman of the Smith-Waterman sequence alignment algorithm, underlying most DNA and protein sequence comparison methods today. Dr. Smith spent a sabbatical year working with Harold Morowitz at Yale resulting in a seminal paper on the relationship between biology, physics and history. In 1988 he moved to the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, there organizing a computational biology research center and initiating a series of international meetings, “Genes and Machines” on the application of computers in modern biology. In 1991 the center moved to Boston University, becoming director of the BioMolecular Engineering Research Center in the College of Engineering. Working there with Richard Lathrop and others, he helped develop new protein threading and Discrete State software. Dr. Smith has continued his research in many areas, including the time calibration of HIV viral evolution, and with Harvard’s Eva Neer the modeling of the WD-repeat protein family. As a member of Fly Base, he helped carry out a full-genome comparative evolutionary analysis of the Drosophila clade. More recently he has investigated the origin of the eukaryotic cell and the evolutionary of the cellular translation system. Dr. Smith was inducted into AIMBE “for extraordinary contributions in defining and advancing the field of bioinformatics, with emphasis on novel engineering methods to predict protein structure and function” and made a follow of the ISCB. He has over 200 reviewed publications and has been the primary advisor for over 20 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. As of 2010 Dr. Smith became Professor Emeritus in BioMedical Engineering at Boston University. Dr. Smith is an avid skier, ice climber, sailor, hockey coach and family man with four sons. He is also the co-founder of a small gene engineering company, Modular Genetics, Inc. in Woburn, Massachusetts.

Research Interest

His research is centered on the application of various computer science and mathematical methods for the discovery of the syntactic and semantic patterns in nucleic acid and amino acid sequences. In recent years this has focus on molecular evolution of protein families. such as the WD-repeat beta propellers, translation associated GTPase, and the ribosomal proteins