VERMILLION, S.D. -- The first computational science and statistics doctorate in the state of South Dakota will be awarded when more than 40 doctoral degrees are presented during summer commencement ceremonies at The University of South Dakota on Thursday, July 31. The first recipient of this degree, Sujuan Ye, will be hooded by Asai Asaithambi, Ph.D. Her dissertation research resulted in the development of new computational algorithms for analyzing DNA sequences.
"Three years ago, South Dakota was the only state without a doctoral program in mathematics or computer science," explained James W. Abbott, President of The University of South Dakota. "We’re pleased to say this is no longer the case. The awarding of this degree is an affirmation of our commitment both to academic excellence and to making competitive research opportunities available to our students."
"This is the first Ph.D. of this nature in South Dakota, so I think we’re all pretty excited to see our first student graduate from the program," he added. "The research opportunities are limitless when it comes to science and computing. This program certainly accentuates those possibilities and it’s a niche that we wanted to capture with this program," Asaithambi remarked, "doing science using computers."
Asaithambi, chair of the department of computer science at USD, believes the computational science and statistics Ph.D. will serve as a benefit to graduating students interested in research or pursuing a career in physical and life sciences.
"We’re very proud of this program," stated Asaithambi, who noted that this program is a joint Ph.D. program with South Dakota State University. In fact, when the classes were first scheduled at the University Center in Sioux Falls, S.D., it was USD faculty members who often drove USD students to the core courses.
Designed to train students to integrate computational and statistical methodologies, the computational science and statistics Ph.D. was created to investigate research problems in the natural and physical sciences, including biology, chemistry, physics and medicine. The program offers opportunities for research in specialized areas such as artificial neural networks, biological modeling, bioinformatics, biostatistics, computational biology, computational chemistry, computational mathematics, computational physics, computer science, data visualization, ecological modeling, spatial data modeling and transport processes.
Ye, a native of China who received her master’s degree from USD in 2005, was drawn to the computational science and statistics doctorate by the challenges offered by the new program, especially the research opportunities it provided. She believed that the new type of research the program offered would not only increase the value of her education but make her computer science skills more valuable in the job market.
"I thought about it, about finding a job in the industry," Ye recalled. "But after giving it careful thought, when I considered that maybe a master’s is not enough, I realized that this kind of research was unique and beneficial to furthering my education."
Now that Ye has graduated with the first Ph.D. in computational science and statistics, with five additional students presently enrolled in the program, Asaithambi is hoping that, eventually, the Ph.D. will become a viable option for computer science majors as well as researchers looking to do "science using computers."
"In the near future, it will become necessary for us to strengthen the faculty profile in support of this program," Asaithambi admitted. "The administrative support is there, we offer competitive assistantships and since there were no math or computer science Ph.D. offerings before this, we feel very good about growing this program."
More information about the Ph.D. program is available at www.usd.edu/csci/programs/grad/phdProgram.cfm or for more about Bioinformatics at The U, please visit to www.usd.edu/csci/bioinformatics/.
A photograph of Asaithambi is available for download at www.usd.edu/urelations/images/Asai_Asaithambi.jpg and a photo of Ye can be downloaded at www.usd.edu/urelations/images/Sujuan_Ye.jpg.