Tandy Warnow, a professor of computer science at the University of Texas at Austin, seeks to develop methods by which evolutionary history in both biology and linguistics can be accurately and efficiently inferred.
At Radcliffe, Warnow will work on the problem of inferring reticulate evolution, which occurs when evolutionary history is not treelike. In biology, this phenomenon takes place in the presence of the horizontal transfer of DNA (for example, via retroviruses) or through events such as hybridization, in which distinct species interbreed to create new species. Reticulate evolution also occurs between languages (for example, in the creation of creoles), but perhaps more commonly when languages have remained in significant contact after diverging from a common ancestor. In both cases, few algorithms have been developed for inferring reticulate evolutionary histories or even detecting such reticulations, and the few that have been developed are inaccurate. Warnow will try to make significant progress on these problems.
Warnow received both her BA and her PhD from the University of California at Berkeley; afterward, she was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Southern California and a researcher in the Discrete Algorithms Group at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She spent several years at the University of Pennsylvania before joining, in 1999, the University of Texas, where she is codirector of the Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics. She received the National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award in 1994 and a fellowship from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation in 1996.