Nataša Pržulj, Reader at the Department of Computing, Imperial College London, has been awarded the BCS Roger Needham Award for 2014 sponsored by Microsoft Research Cambridge. The award has been made in recognition of the potential Nataša’s research and work has to revolutionise health and pharmaceutics.
Nataša’s research involves applications of graph theory, mathematical modelling and computational techniques to solving large-scale problems in systems biology, medicine and economics. Some of her recent work is on network integration and alignment, as well as on other computational and theoretical solutions to practical problems in many areas of systems biology, proteomics, and cancer informatics.
Nataša says of her work: “I am interested in computational and theoretical solutions to practical problems in many areas of systems biology, proteomics, and medical and cancer informatics. The aim is to harvest information hidden in the wiring of heterogeneous large-scale real biological networks to improve biological and medical understanding and gain new insight into important open problems that would benefit the society. These include disease re-classification and drug re-positioning supported by modern systems-level molecular data, as well as insights into prevalent complex diseases, such as cardio-vascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. Also, the world’s economic system consists of heterogeneous, large-scale, complex networks and the persisting economic crisis demonstrates the need for them to be mined searching for new insight into origins of economic crises and recovery strategies.”
She is renowned for initiating extraction of biological knowledge purely from topology of real-world networks. That is, she views large and complex biological networks as a new source of biological information that needs to be mined, and looks for links between network topology in protein-protein interaction networks and biological function and involvement of proteins in disease.
Nataša received a prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Starting Independent Researcher Grant for 2012-2017 for her project titled “Biological Network Topology Complements Genome as a Source of Biological Information”. She held a USA analogue to an ERC Starting Grant, a prestigious NSF CAREER Award, for the project titled "Tools for Analysing, Modelling, and Comparing Protein-Protein Interaction Networks" in 2007-2011 at University of California Irvine. Her research has also been supported by other large governmental and industrial grants including those from: GlaxoSmithKline, IBM and Google.
Professor Stephen Emmott, of Microsoft Research says: “Nataša is a deserved winner of the prestigious Roger Needham Award. Her work is affording important insights into biological systems at the molecular level and our understanding of disease, and serves to demonstrate the importance of computational solutions can play in science and society.”
The Roger Needham Award is sponsored by Microsoft Research Cambridge and established in memory of Microsoft’s first director of research outside the US. It is awarded for a distinguished research contribution in computer science by a UK based researcher within ten years of their PhD.