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Michael Waterman teaching

College of Science alumnus to be presented with honorary doctorate

By Hannah Ashton

Courtesy of USC, by Leah Lee

College of Science alumnus Michael S. Waterman (Mathematics '64, '66) will be presented with an honorary doctorate at this year's university-wide commencement ceremony in Corvallis.

Waterman is an internationally celebrated mathematician and biologist known for his extraordinary contributions to science, dedication to education and impact on multiple disciplines. He is an eminent figure in bioinformatics and globally recognized as a trailblazer in computational biology.

He is considered the architect of the groundbreaking Human Genome Project which advanced genomics and deepened the world's understanding of life's genetic foundations. He is also known for his collaborative innovation in developing the Smith-Waterman algorithm, a monumental breakthrough. This algorithm revolutionized sequence alignment and is described as the "gold standard for gene and protein sequence analysis." It has become an indispensable tool in bioinformatics, molecular biology, and genetics, and has profoundly impacted molecular biology, medicine, cancer treatment and biofuel development.

"Dr. Waterman's dedication to pushing the frontier of knowledge and his commitment to education are extraordinary," wrote Oregon State University President Jayathi Murthy and Provost and Executive Vice President Edward Feser.

Waterman received the college's Lifetime Achievement in Science Award in 2021. Serving on the College of Science Board of Advisors, he also created a scholarship that supports College of Science students who are historically underserved, Oregon residents.

His list of awards and honors includes the Guggenheim Fellowship and professorships at the University of Southern California and the University of Virginia. He is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Academy of Engineering, and a fellow of several scientific organizations including the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Institute of Mathematical Statistics.

He has received the Gairdner Foundation International Award, the Dan David Prize, the Walter Benter Prize in Applied Mathematics, and the Friendship Award from the Chinese government. Additionally, he is a founding editor of the Journal of Computational Biology and serves on the editorial boards of various journals.