College of Engineering to benefit from donation

The $1 million gift will be used to improve resources for MU’s bioinformatics program.
Tuesday, January 31, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:49 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

MU alumnus Paul Shumaker and his wife, Dianne, have given $1 million to the College of Engineering’s bioinformatics program for research, scholarships and a lecture series.

“We will partner with the School of Medicine and other schools to develop tools that will dramatically improve health care,” said James Thompson, dean of the College of Engineering, “and the Shumakers’ gift will provide resources that are important to the students and faculty.

“Students will be educated and have the tools for them, personally, to have very successful careers, get very good jobs and be able to make an impact with what they do,” Thompson said after a morning presentation Monday at Reynolds Alumni Center.

The gift will fund the Shumaker Professorship of Bioinformatics in Computer Science. Chi-Ren Shyu, assistant professor in computer science, has been named to the position. According to Shyu, bioinformatics is the development and application of complex computer algorithms to solve biological and genetic problems from large-scale genomic databases.

Shyu plans to continue development of two Web-based databases.

“Since the area of bioinformatics is so broad, I will be also developing algorithms and systems for plants, particularly for maize and soybeans, in the near future,” Shyu said.

The first database, Protein DBS, is designed to provide structural biologists with information about protein structures in only seconds. Since 2003, when it became accessible to the public, more than 25,000 searches have been made on the Web site, and its mirror sites.

“Protein DBS is the first search engine in the world that can provide a real-time protein structure search using algorithms to speed up results,” Shyu said. “Instead of waiting hours or days, it will take only seconds.”

With the second database, called WebHIQS, doctors can compare CAT scans to others on the database to diagnose their patients. Shyu and his team have worked on the medical image retrieval system for more than five years. Shyu said the database is not available to the public now because of doctor/patient confidentiality.

“WebHIQS is a Web-based inquiry query system and will be valuable to radiologists because they can ‘Google’ for medical images for differential diagnoses,” Shyu said.

“Mizzou is a great place for researchers who are looking for an interdisciplinary environment,” said Shyu, who joined the faculty in 2000. “I am fortunate to be here and working with many outstanding researchers in engineering and life sciences.”

Paul Shumaker, who graduated in electrical engineering, is a founder of Garmin International, which makes navigation and communication equipment generated by a network of U.S. satellites.

In addition, the gift will create a scholarship program for graduate students, called the Shumaker Fellows, and the Shumaker Lecture Series on Bioinformatics. The lecture series is intended to bring internationally known experts to visit MU and share their knowledge.

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