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UH researchers win top prize for research with humanitarian applications
Date:8/19/2008

HOUSTON, Aug. 19, 2008 We all understand that even the tiniest changes in the environment can create big opportunities and challenges for plants, animals and humans, but rarely do we consider what's happening on a microscopic level and what those changes could mean for the infinite varieties of life on Earth or how mankind's day-to-day experiences could be affected.

But University of Houston researchers Yuriy Fofanov and Lennart Johnsson understand that what we don't see often carries big-picture implications. They've recently garnered international recognition for applying such vision while creating technologies to help monitor the sizes and genomic diversity of microbial communities.

Fofanov and Johnsson, both of UH's Texas Learning and Computation Center (TLC2), were named this month as the winners of the second annual Itanium Solutions Alliance Innovation Contest for the humanitarian applications of their team's research. They will accept the award Wednesday (Aug. 20) at a ceremony at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in conjunction with the Intel Developer Forum, a high-profile and high-tech gathering of industry executives and developers.

Microbes, which are responsible for more than 50 percent of the oxygen produced on Earth, play integral roles in human body function and ecosystems, and the team's new computational tools will help researchers better understand how human activities and environmental changes affect the multitude of microbial communities that govern human health and life on our planet and perhaps others.

"To put it into perspective, there are more microbes than there are cells in the human body. In fact, they often are the first line of defense against disease or environmental disasters," explains Fofanov, associate professor of computer science, biology and biochemistry who heads up the Bioinformatics Laboratory. "Microbes are mostly our friends, but sometimes they can be pretty nasty."'/>"/>

Contact: Lisa Merkl
lkmerkl@uh.edu
713-743-8192
University of Houston
Source:Eurekalert

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