From the National Human Genome Research Institute Director

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A letter from the Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute to Dan Burns, Chair of the Mathematics Awareness Month 2002 Advisory Committee.

Dear Dr. Burns,

I am delighted to hear that "Mathematics and the Genome" will be the topic for this year's Mathematics Awareness Month program. This topic is extremely timely, because the Human Genome Project has indeed opened up many exciting opportunities for mathematicians to get involved in biology. I would go even further and say that we desperately need the help of mathematicians with an interest in biology to move the field of genomics forward and help us reap the fruits that the field promises to yield.

Your Web page illustrates some of the types of mathematical problems that occur in genomics. Genomics is transforming biology from a discipline that accumulated small amounts of data by laborious experimentation, to one that is flooded with data on DNA sequence, genetic variation, gene expression, protein structure, and many other types of fundamental biological information. We need mathematicians to develop new ways to organize, analyze, and utilize these massive datasets. For students entering the field now, the prospects are limitless. The National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health has tried hard for many years to attract individuals from other disciplines such as mathematics, computer science and engineering into genomics. When we have been successful, the impact has been spectacular, but we need many more such individuals. We have developed a number of grants that are designed to facilitate field-switching into genomics and will continue to be interested in nurturing students who want to move into this field.

Thus your plans for introducing mathematics students to the wonders of the genome are most timely. I hope some of those students will consider a career in genomics as a result of your efforts. My best wishes for a successful Mathematics Awareness Month.

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, National Human Genome Research Institute

Mathematics Awareness Month is sponsored each year by the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics to recognize the importance of mathematics through written materials and an accompanying poster that highlight mathematical developments and applications in a particular area.