Tandy Warnow

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Tandy Warnow
Fields computer science, biology
Institutions University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
University of Pennsylvania
University of Texas
Education University of California, Berkeley (bachelor,1984; Ph.D.,1991)
Doctoral advisor Eugene Lawler
Notable students Luay Nakhleh[1]
Notable awards
  • ACM Fellow (2015)
  • ISCB Fellow (2017)

Tandy Jo Warnow is an American computer scientist, the Founder Professor of Engineering (and Professor of Bioengineering and Computer Science) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.[2] She is known for her work on the reconstruction of evolutionary trees, both in biology and in historical linguistics, and also for multiple sequence alignment methods.


Warnow did both her undergraduate and graduate studies in mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, earning a bachelor's degree in 1984 and a Ph.D. in 1991 under the supervision of Eugene Lawler. After postdoctoral studies at the University of Southern California from 1991-1992 and at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque from 1992-1993, she took a faculty position at the University of Pennsylvania, where she remained until moving in 1999 to the University of Texas. In 2014, Warnow joined the faculty of the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. Warnow is married to George Chacko, Chief Scientific Officer and Director, Program Evaluation, Policy Formulation, and Research Analytics, NETE.[2][1]


In 1995, research by Warnow, Donald Ringe, and Ann Taylor at the University of Pennsylvania based on perfect phylogeny computations provided a comprehensive theory for the timing of the early subdivisions in the Indo-European languages. Their computations lent support to the Indo-Hittite hypothesis according to which the first of these subdivisions to separate from the rest of the Indo-European languages were the Anatolian languages. Their results also support the Graeco-Armenian hypothesis, according to which the Armenian language and Greek language form a subfamily of Indo-European. They fit the Germanic languages into the evolutionary tree of Indo-European languages, previously considered problematic, by hypothesizing that the Proto-Germanic language was closely related to the Balto-Slavic languages but then became modified by westward migrations of the Germanic tribes which led them into contact with Italic and Celtic speakers.[3] This perfect phylogeny approach was later extended by Warnow and colleagues to allow for undetected borrowing between languages, so that language evolution is modelled with a network rather than a tree.[4]

In 2009, Warnow and her colleagues released their SATé software for co-estimating biological multiple sequence alignments and evolutionary trees.[5] Their software is based less strongly on firm mathematical principles than some previous co-estimation methods (such as BAli-Phy[6]), but is significantly faster, allowing the fast construction of highly accurate trees and alignments for thousands of species. In comparison, the slow performance of previous methods limited them to only comparing dozens of species at a time.[7][8]

Awards and honors[edit]

Warnow was named the Founder Professor of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2014, and the David Bruton, Jr. Centennial Professorship in Computer Science at the University of Texas at Austin in 2010.[2] Warnow also received a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 2011, a Radcliffe Institute Fellowship in 2003, a David and Lucile Packard Foundation Fellowship in 1996, and the NSF Young Investigator Award in 1994.[2] She was named Fellow of ACM "For contributions to mathematical theory, algorithms, and software for large-scale molecular phylogenetics and historical linguistics".[9] In 2017, she was elected as a Fellow of the International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB).[10]

Selected publications[edit]


External links[edit]