Stephen Altschul

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Stephen Altschul
Born Stephen Frank Altschul
(1957-02-28) February 28, 1957 (age 60)
Citizenship United states
Fields Bioinformatics
Institutions NCBI
Alma mater Harvard University (A.B., Mathematics)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Ph.D., Mathematics)
Thesis Aspects of Biological Sequence Comparison (1987)
Doctoral advisor Daniel Kleitman[1]
Known for BLAST
Spouse Caroline Kershaw James (m. 1994)

Stephen Frank Altschul (born February 28, 1957) is an American mathematician who has designed algorithms that are used in the field of bioinformatics (the Karlin-Altschul algorithm[2] and its successors[3]). Altschul is the co-author of the BLAST algorithm used for sequence analysis of proteins and nucleotides.[4][5]


Altschul graduated summa cum laude[6] from Harvard University, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in mathematics and has a Ph.D. in the same field from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[7]


His research interest is centered on sequence alignment algorithms, statistics of sequence comparison and measurement of sequence similarity.[4][5]


He is the son of Stephanie Rosemary (née Wagner) and Arthur Altschul, a former partner at Goldman Sachs.[8][9] In 1994, he married Caroline Kershaw James, the daughter of Caroline James-Pritz of Cincinnati and Harry Keithan James of Dayton, Ohio. The Rev. Luther D. Miller Jr. performed the ceremony at St. David's Episcopal Church in Washington.[10]

His half-sister is journalist Serena Altschul known for her tenure at MTV. On his father's side, he is a member of the Lehman family.

From mathematics to bioinformatics[edit]

During his undergraduate years, Dr. Altschul developed an interest in biology. As a result, he started reading books about DNA. One of the books which he read was "The Double Helix" by Watson. Furthermore, he had also taken a course on Evolutionary Biology. Dr. Altschul had also spent two summers working in laboratories at Rockfeller University where he helped to write computer codes for an X-ray crystallography project.

Due to his interest, Dr. Altschul had considered trying to apply to graduate school in biology. He instead decided to apply to programs in applied mathematics, with the hope of finding some applications of mathematics to biology to work on.

Notable appointments/positions held[edit]

Upon graduation, Dr. Stephen Frank Altschul worked in the Mathematics Research Branch of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases as an IRTA postdoctoral fellowship. From 1990 to present, he has worked in the NCBI Computational Biology Branch, holding the position of senior investigator.


  1. ^ Stephen Altschul at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  2. ^ Altschul, S.; Gish, W.; Miller, W.; Myers, E.; Lipman, D. (1990). "Basic Local Alignment Search Tool". Journal of Molecular Biology. 215 (3): 403–410. doi:10.1016/S0022-2836(05)80360-2. PMID 2231712. 
  3. ^ Altschul, S.; Madden, T. L.; Schäffer, A. A.; Zhang, J.; Zhang, Z.; Miller, W.; Lipman, D. J. (1997). "Gapped BLAST and PSI-BLAST: A new generation of protein database search programs". Nucleic Acids Research. 25 (17): 3389–3402. doi:10.1093/nar/25.17.3389. PMC 146917Freely accessible. PMID 9254694. 
  4. ^ a b List of publications from Microsoft Academic Search
  5. ^ a b Stephen F. Altschul at DBLP Bibliography Server
  6. ^ Weddings; Caroline James, Stephen Altschul - New York Times
  7. ^ Altschul, Stephen Frank (1987). Aspects of Biological Sequence Comparison (PhD thesis). Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 
  8. ^ Death notice of Arthur Goodhart Altschul
  9. ^
  10. ^ New York Times: "Weddings; Caroline James, Stephen Altschul" April 17, 1994

External links[edit]