Michael Schatz, one of the world’s foremost experts in solving computational problems in genomics research, was named a Bloomberg Distinguished Associate Professor of Computational Biology at Johns Hopkins University in 2016. Computational biology is at the intersection of computer science, biology, and biotechnology. Through an integrative approach to scientific discovery, Schatz and his collaborators successfully harness trends in computing to tackle important problems stemming from the continuous development of DNA sequencing, such as the alignment of next-generation sequencing reads and the assembly of reads from real-time single-molecule sequencers.
Schatz has created many of the most widely used methods and software for genome assembly—that is, piecing together all of the genetic material for a single person or a species. He is primarily focused on the development of novel algorithms for comparative genomics, human genetics, and personalized medicine. His work has led to a better understanding of the structure and function of genomes, especially those of medical or agricultural importance.
Schatz also examines sequence variations related to autism spectrum disorders, cancer, and other human diseases in order to reveal their genetic basis and evolution. He has also recently embarked on creating new computational methods for analyzing single molecule sequencing, especially plant and animal genomes and transcriptomes, which are the sets of expressed genes in an organism.
“There is no better institution in the world than Johns Hopkins University for the cross-cutting research in science, engineering, and medicine that makes up computational biology,” Schatz stated upon arriving at Hopkins. “I am delighted to join the faculty here and look forward to collaborating with my new, outstanding colleagues to help find the causes of diseases, identify better ways to feed the planet, and develop new sources of biofuels. I also look forward to passing on my passion for research to the undergraduate and graduate student bodies and promoting them to work on solving these incredibly meaningful problems.”
Schatz’s appointment reinforces Johns Hopkins’ strength and international visibility in the area of computational biology. He joins a cohort of scholars leading the field, including Ben Langmead, Alexis Battle, James Taylor, and fellow Bloomberg Distinguished Professor Steven Salzberg, who was also Schatz’s doctoral advisor. His work will benefit the Individualized Health Initiative, which spans the university, the Johns Hopkins Health System, and the Applied Physics Laboratory.
Schatz is an experienced and esteemed educator who has twice been awarded the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s Winship Herr Award for Excellence in Teaching. While at CSHL, he co-directed the Undergraduate Research Program and taught graduate courses on genetics, genomics, quantitative biology, genome assembly, and advanced sequencing technologies and applications. He has also helped organize several large conferences, including launching a new conference on Biological Data Science to bring together researchers in computer sciences, statistics, mathematics, and other quantitative fields to address problems in biology and medicine. With this range of expertise, he will add valuable instruction for Hopkins undergraduate and graduate students in both the Krieger and Whiting schools.
In 2015, Schatz received an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship to develop computational methods to probe the genetic components of autism and cancer, and in 2014 he received a NSF CAREER award to develop new computational methods for processing DNA sequencing data from the latest high-throughput sequencing technologies.
Schatz serves on the editorial boards of Genome Biology, GigaScience, andCell Systems, and he has served as a reviewer for such journals as Nature Biotechnology, Nature Methods, Genome Research, Genome Medicine, BMC Genomics, Bioinformatics, and the Faculty of 1000 Biology. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Wired.
Schatz joined Johns Hopkins from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island in New York, where he was an associate professor in the Simons Center for Quantitative Biology, served as the co-director of the Undergraduate Research Program, and co-led the Cancer Genetics & Genomics Program in the CSHL Cancer Center.
Schatz received a bachelor of science degree in computer science and philosophy from Carnegie Mellon University in 2000 and a master of science and doctoral degrees in computer science from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2008 and 2010, respectively. Between his bachelor and master of science degrees, Schatz worked as a software engineer at the J. Craig Venter Institute—formerly The Institute for Genomic Research—and STi Systems. He will remain an Adjunct Associate Professor of Quantitative Biology at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.