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Nakhleh was born on May 8, 1974 to a Christian, Palestinian family in Israel. He currently lives with his Japanese wife and two children in Texas, and holds a U.S. citizenship (in addition to the Israeli citizenship).
Nakhleh did his undergraduate studies in the Department of Computer Science at the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, earning a bachelor's degree in 1996. He earned a master's degree in Computer Science from Texas A&M University in 1998, and a PhD degree in Computer Science from the University of Texas at Austin, under the supervision of Prof. Tandy Warnow, in 2004. Nakhleh started his academic position at Rice University in July 2004, where he has been an Assistant Professor (2004-2010), Associate Professor (2010-2016), and a Full Professor (2016-current). As of January 2017, he serves as the Chair of the Computer Science Department. On July 1, 2018, he was named as the J.S. Abercrombie Professor of Computer Science.
Nakhleh's research has been focused mainly on computational and statistical approaches to phylogenomics and comparative genomics under scenarios where the evolutionary history of the genomes is not treelike. His earlier work in this area focused on parsimonious phylogenetic networks: Networks that embed a given set of trees with the lowest number of reticulations, assuming all gene tree incongruence is due to reticulate evolution. He and his colleagues also applied similar approaches to language data to elucidate the (reticulate) evolutionary history of the Indo-European languages. Later, his work started focusing on statistical approaches, in order to account for other evolutionary processes that could be at play in genomic data sets, most notably incomplete lineage sorting. These approaches could be viewed as approximations of the multispecies coalescent with gene flow.
Additionally, Nakhleh has done research on biological networks (modeling and evolution) and, more recently, on computational questions arising in cancer genomics.
Nakhleh and his group have been developing PhyloNet, an open-source software package, implemented in Java, for inference and analysis of (explicit) phylogenetic networks.
Honors and awards
Nakhleh's honors and awards include:
- The Computer Sciences Bert Kay Outstanding Dissertation Award, Department of Computer Sciences, UT Austin, 2005.
- The Outstanding Dissertation Award in the Mathematics, Engineering, Physical Sciences, and Biological and Life Sciences category, UT Austin, 2005.
- The Department of Energy Early Career Award, 2006.
- The National Science Foundation CAREER Award, 2009.
- The Phi Beta Kappa Teaching Award, Rice University, 2009.
- The Sloan Fellowship in the Molecular Biology category, 2010.
- The Guggenheim Fellowship in the Organismic Biology and Ecology category, 2012.
- The Teaching and Research Excellence Award, School of Engineering, Rice University, 2015.