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Sherif H. Elmeligy During my school days, I always fought to maintain high grades.

I always had to take that extra step to get an edge over my colleagues. When I was young, I was interested in biology and I used to question myself as to how could DNA, proteins and enzymes perform their work despite being small molecules? My hard work during school, coupled with self-confidence, rewarded me with high scores in biology and mathematics. In my country Egypt, Engineering colleges established a new department, Computer Science. My cousin, who was a computer science student, advised me to join this promising department. I was confused about choosing Computer Science or Biology. I made a search, and I found that Computer Science is a broad field consisting of many branches and several applications in other disciplines, such as Biology and Medicine. So I decided to pursue my undergraduate studies in computer science. I searched among several colleges of computer science, and I finally chose the Computer Science Department of The Arab Academy for Science and Technology (AAST). It provides the latest technologies and distinguished educational, training and research services in order to support higher study courses that conform to the needs of computer usage in many important research fields. In my undergraduate studies, I took several courses that gave me a comprehensive exposure to the core areas and strong conceptual understanding of Computer Science. I worked on several projects, such as a Currency Recognition Project in the course Artificial Intelligence. I developed a method to recognize different types of currency using Image Processing techniques to identify important regions and features in the image, and I used neural networks for classification. Also I developed a framework for parallel processing using Matlab in the course Distributed and Parallel Computing. In the course Database Systems, I developed a web-based database system for conference management, and this application was used later to support the International Conference on Computer Theory and Applications (ICCTA), Alexandria, Egypt. For my Bachelor of Science final project, I developed a technique that, when employed in a search engine, will maximize the comprehensiveness and precision of the query in a large database system designed for my university library. By the end of my undergraduate studies, I had an overview of different research areas in the field of computer science. I was awarded the Computer Scientific Society Prize for Achieving the Best Project Performance. I decided to continue with graduate study to refine my knowledge and skills. I took graduate courses including Software Engineering, Image Processing, Advanced Complexity Theory, and Knowledge Based Systems. During these courses, I worked on several projects. In the Knowledge Based Systems course, I developed an agent-based system that remotely controlled a robotic arm. The user can use hand signs which were captured by a digital camera, followed by a preprocessing step to extract image features that were used as input to the classifier. Then the final decision was sent by the classifier to the software agent that was able to move to the destination machine and control the arm remotely. I worked on several papers during my graduate courses. The first one was a multidisciplinary work with the Maritime College, where I introduced a new computerized method to calculate the stability of offshore pipelines in sea beds. After that I wrote a survey paper in the field of Software Engineering, discussing function point analysis. I participated in a paper in the area of Information Retrieval and Image Processing. The paper introduced a new content-based Image Retrieval System using a coocurrence matrix. This paper became the basis for my master thesis. During my master thesis, I spent a lot of time reading papers in the field of computer science and bioinformatics. I attended several workshops and conferences. I realized the relation between many diseases and cell malfunction, genetic disorders and protein production, which encouraged me to explore this point during my master's thesis. I found that proteins with similar functionality have similar 3D structures. I proposed a method for protein classification that predicts their functionality based on the 3D structure. The basic idea behind this work is to represent the 3D structure as a 2D image. Then we can overcome the preprocessing overhead of rotating, translating and scaling the 3D structures before classification. The next step is to extract different

features from the image, use different classifiers and finally compare the results to find the best score. This work was presented in the International Conference on Computer Theory and Applications (ICCTA), Alexandria, Egypt. I worked as a Graduate Teaching Assistant for five years since my graduation. During this period I taught undergraduate courses, including Data Structures, Database Systems, System Modeling & Simulation, Computer Security, Project Management, Programming Applications, Structured Programming, Software Engineering, and System Analysis & Design. I helped my students in developing a good taste in picking problems and to build good intuition for potential solutions. I noticed that by showing commitment to research and curiosity for learning new things, I could spark similar characteristics in my students. I would also like to transfer to my students my passion for interdisciplinary research. I worked closely with my students. I thought carefully about the dynamics and culture of my class. I wanted a class where each student could be an independent thinker with a unique and strong research identity. My students' work received recognition both within AAST and outside it. I chose the PhD program in Virginia Tech because of its high standard for educational quality in Computer Science. I was inspired by the vastness of the research groups and the huge number of research projects available that one could work on. I was lucky because of the presence of the VT-MENA program, which is a new graduate program in Egypt, to serve the Middle East and North Africa region. The program is hosted by the Arab Academy for Science and Technology and Alexandria University and is supported by UNESCO. The main advantage of the VT-MENA program is that I can study for the first two years of the PhD program in Egypt and then continue my studies in Blacksburg. Every student has a scholarship, so one can focus on his courses and research work at least for the first two years. One of the most important things that made me decide to join Virginia Tech is the presence of the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI). I think this place is ideal for every researcher seeking to work in the field of bioinformatics. This is the first semester for me at Virginia Tech. I arrived two months ago. After finishing my procedures for new students, I started searching for suitable courses in which to register. I realized that at the beginning I should prepare myself for research and enhance my technical communication skills, so I registered in the Research Methods in Computer Science course. Also my interest in using Information Retrieval techniques in the Bioinformatics field was the reason to register in the Information Storage and Retrieval course. I looked for Research groups to join. The first group I investigated is the Digital Library Research Laboratory (DLIR), which is concerned with integrating the best of information retrieval multimedia, hypermedia, visualization with the best and most humanistic aspects of living libraries. The other group I visited is the Theoretical and Computational Biophysics group that uses theoretical and computational methods to understand dynamics and function of bimolecular systems such as proteins, DNA, and their complexes. After collecting information and reading some abstracts and publications of both groups, I joined the Digital Library group, which is supervised by Dr. Ed Fox. I found that the DLIR group uses several Information Retrieval techniques, especially Image Retrieval. They built a Content Based Image Retrieval system for identifying different fish species. Also they used Image Retrieval Techniques as part of the CTRNet (Integrated Digital Library Support for Crisis, Tragedy and Recovery project). I look forward to applying Information Retrieval Techniques, including Image and 3D object retrieval in the field of bioinformatics, to solve or uncover some biological problems. After I complete my PhD, my eventual goal is to return as a professor to the Computer Science Department of AAST, where I can perform research and teach. While research has been the main focus of my undergraduate and post-graduate career, my teaching and leadership experience have convinced me that I am suited to a career as an educator. I wish I could establish a research group where various types of students are involved, including graduate, undergraduate and even high school students. The group will have students from different areas and backgrounds, and the objective of the group is to put young researchers on the right road, to find out great ideas from these fresh minds, and develop a new methods and techniques in computer science to help people in various aspects of our life, especially medicine.