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Graduate Alumni Profiles | Yiannis Kaznessis

Yiannis Kaznessis

Yiannis Kaznessis '99

Advisor: Dr. Davide A. Hill and Dr. Edward J. Maginn
Thesis Title: Molecular Dynamics Simulations of Macromolecules: Comparison with Dielectric Spectroscopy Experiments.
Graduate School: University of Notre Dame
PostDoc: Pfizer Global Research and Development and the University of Michigan


Current Position

University of Minnesota, where he is the Director of the Bioinformatics Summer Institute and faculty in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, and Digital Technology Center.

Experience

"My experience at the University of Notre Dame was a particularly rewarding one. The environment is one of scholastic excellence and the campus is still the most beautiful one I have seen in the States. The University is rich in traditions that quickly become meaningful even to a foreigner. Scientific rigor guides the work of researchers at ND and the Department offers a wide spectrum of research opportunities in cutting edge technological fields.

Working with Davide Hill and Edward Maginn, I was provided with the guided freedom and the necessary resources to not only find the answers to specific scientific questions but also to explore my own preferences in means and methods of research. Although I started as an experimentalist I quickly discovered that I preferred sitting in front of a computer developing theories and models. My advisors allowed me to switch and for the last eight years I have indeed only sat in front of blue screens.

Using Brownian dynamics simulations, I investigated the behavior of polymer chains with their one end confined on a flat surface. Besides polymer science, statistical mechanics and computer simulations I learned how to parallelize algorithms for running in hundreds of computers at the same time. For some time I was able to run on more that 500 online computers available throughout the campus. This was 1997 and I am sure that running on computers without the consent of the user sitting in front of the screen is not an agreeable practice anymore.

Because of the skills I developed at ND I was hired for a joint postdoctoral appointment at Pfizer Global Research and Development and the University of Michigan. There I learned how to model biological molecules and systems of interest in the pharmaceutical industry. Protein-protein, protein-DNA and protein-membrane interactions are still the focus of my group at the University of Minnesota, but now we run our simulations on computers at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications without bothering anybody on campus. I also direct the University of Minnesota Bioinformatics Summer Institute in an effort to expose undergraduate engineers to computational bioengineering."

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