Research on DNA/RNA Sequencing Data Wins Srivastava President's Award to Doctoral Students

Avi Srivastava (PhD '19, Computer Science), has been selected as a winner of the President's Award to Distinguished Doctoral Students. Students presented with this prestigious honor receive a $1,000 award.

In 2014, Srivastava joined the PhD program in Stony Brook's Department of Computer Science in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. His dissertation dealt with design and development  of methods to generate accurate gene expression estimates from raw bulk and single-cell RNA- sequencing data. He defended his thesis, "Efficient Quantification of Bulk and Droplet-Based Single-Cell RNA-Sequencing Data," successfully in December 2019. Srivastava is now a Postdoctoral Researcher at the New York Genome Center in New York City.

Research on gene expression estimates from DNA and RNA sequencing data has become a promising avenue for effective personalized medicine. Rob Patro, a Research Assistant Professor, said, “Beyond the considerable intellectual contribution that Avi's work here makes to the field, it is likely that his tool will make an immense practical contribution as it is used by other researchers, in both academia and industry, to accurately infer gene expression profiles from single-cell RNA-seq data.” 

Professor and Graduate Program Director, C.R. Ramakrishnan, pointed out that in interdisciplinary research such as Computation Biology, it is very rare to find a dissertation that has such a well-recognized impact both on the foundational and application sides. "That Avi has managed to do this in the short span of his PhD studies is impressive," he said. "Avi’s excellence is illustrated by his record as a researcher of extraordinary ability...[and] that he has done this while overcoming a serious personal issue."

"It's an honor to receive this prestigious award and I'm very thankful to the professors of the Department of Computer Science, especially my [dissertation] advisor Rob Patro, for their support and guidance throughout my training as a PhD student," said Srivastava. "My time at Stony Brook was a life-changing experience that I will carry forward throughout my career."

In addition to Srivastava, the other 2020 winners include Xinzhong Chen, Physics; Michael Tyler Guinn, Biomedical Engineering; Adrian Howansky, Biomedical Engineering and Erin Kang, Psychology. The last Computer Science winner was Yevgen Borodin in 2010.

Each candidate's nomination for the President's Award to Distinguished Doctoral Students was reviewed based on the following criteria:

  1. The outstanding merit of the candidate's dissertation and its research base.
  2. The candidate's exceptional contributions in ability or service to the university, which must be of such a nature as to warrant special citation.
  3. How, in completing doctoral study, the candidate overcame a personal or social handicap of an unusual nature, warranting special recognition.