December 9, 2013

PhD Students and Postdocs publish research results and receive prizes

In the past months, several PhD students and Postdocs of IST Austria have published their research or received prizes for their work. Examples of their research span the range of disciplines at IST Austria:

Tiago Paixão, Postdoc in the group of evolutionary biologist Nick Barton, is coauthor of a paper in the October issue of Genetics. In “Accumulation of spontaneous mutations in the ciliate Tetrahymena thermophila“, he and his colleagues introduce a new way to study the mutation rate and the consequence of mutations on the fitness of an organism. These are among the most important parameters in evolution, but are at the same time difficult to measure. The team conducted their experiments in Tetrahymena thermophila, a single-celled organism that accumulates mutations in a nucleus that is never exposed to selection, allowing an unbiased estimate of the mutation spectrum, and show that the deleterious mutation rate and fitness effects in this eukaryotic group are similar to those of other eukaryotes. What is more, Tiago Paixão, who joined the Barton group in 2011, designed the accompanying cover of the October issue of Genetics.

In a paper published in the “Journal of Mathematical Imaging and Vision” in October, PhD student Florian Pausinger and his supervisor Herbert Edelsbrunner present a new algorithm for length estimates that was motivated by applications in biology. One common question in various biological contexts is how to define and measure the length of tube-like structures, for instance blood vessels, river networks, trees, lymph vessels, dendrites and more. The methods available to estimate the length of such tubes have, until now, yielded so-called “non-stable” results – estimates where a very different estimate is calculated for similar biological specimen, which should actually be of similar length. Pausinger’s and Edelsbrunner’s new algorithm now allows for a stable estimate of length in tube-like, three-dimensional structures.

Peter Gaži, Postdoc in the group of Krzysztof Pietrzak, is one of two recipients of the Information Security Society Switzerland (ISSS) Excellence Awards. Peter Gaži, who did his PhD at ETH Zurich, received the ISSS Excellence Award for his doctoral thesis on “Information-theoretic analyses of symmetric-cryptography constructions in idealized models”. His work adds a new pillar to the theory of cryptographic proofs, an important asset in cryptographic constructions. Specifically, Gaži’s thesis impacts the area of symmetric cryptographic constructions. Peter Gaži joined Krzysztof Pietrzak’s group at IST Austria in 2013, continuing to work on cryptographic proofs.

Martin Behrndt received a Hansgeorg Schindler Young Investigator Award for outstanding research achievements. Martin Behrndt, PhD student in the group of cell and developmental biologist Carl-Philipp Heisenberg, received the award at the annual meeting of Biophysics Austria in Innsbruck on September 26. His research focuses on the generation of force by actin and myosin in cells of developing zebrafish embryos, applying methods at the interface of physics and biology.  The award in the form of a travel grant gives Martin Behrndt to opportunity to visit a world-leading research institution and present his work.