Simons Professor of Mathematics
Theoretical Computer Science, Computational Biological Modeling
Bonnie Berger is the Simons Professor of Mathematics at MIT as of July 2016, holds a joint appointment in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and serves as head of the Computation and Biology group at MIT's Computer Science and AI Lab. Her recent work focuses on designing algorithms to gain biological insights from advances in automated data collection and the subsequent large data sets drawn from them. She works on a diverse set of problems, including Network Inference, Protein Folding, Compressive Genomics, and Medical Genomics. Additionally, she collaborates closely with biologists in order to design experiments to maximally leverage the power of computation for biological explorations.
Professor Berger received the A.B. in computer science from Brandeis University, the S.M. and Ph.D. in computer science from MIT in 1986 and 90. her thesis received the George M. Sprowles Prize, under the supervision of Silvio Micali. She continued as a post-doctoral fellow at MIT while simultaneously serving as a mathematical consultant at AT&T Bell Labs. She joined the MIT faculty in applied mathematics in 1992, holding a joint appointment at the Lab for Computer Science (now known as CSAIL), and became head of the computation and biology group in 1994. She was promoted to professor in 2002. She served as the Interim Chair of the Applied Mathematics Committee in the fall of 2018.
Professor Berger's major areas of research are in applying mathematical techniques to problems in molecular biology. The focus of her research has been on the following core problem areas: comparative genomics, protein structural motif recognition and discovery, molecular self-assembly and mis-assembly, and functional genomics. In 1997, she received MIT's Samuel A. Goldblith Career Development Professorship, and in 1998 the Biophysical Society's Dayhoff Award. She was selected for Technology Review's TR100 Award in 1999, as one of the 100 top young innovators for 21st century. She was elected Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery in 2003 "for contributions to computational molecular biology." She was selected to give the Margaret Pittman Lecture of the NIH in 2011. In 2012 she was made a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and of the International Society for Computational Biology. In 2016 she was elected to the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) College of Fellows. She also received an honorary doctorate from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. In the August 2016 issue of Communications of the ACM, her research is the cover feature (with an accompanying video on the journal's web site). She was selected by the department's faculty to be the next Simons Professor of Mathematics, as of July 2016. In 2019, Professor Berger was selected for the Senior Scientist Award of the International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB). This award recognizes highly significant, long-term career achievements. Bonnie was honored for her visionary, foundational and deep contributions to the field. She was also selected to be a Fellow of the AMS. In December 2019, Bonnie was selected to give the AWM-SIAM Sonia Kovalevsky Lecture at the 2020 SIAM Annual Meeting. This honor highlights the achievements of women in applied and computational mathematics. In 2020, she was elected Member of the National Academy of Sciences. In 2022, Berger was named a SIAM Fellow, "for pioneering work in computational molecular biology, including comparative and compressive genomics, network inference, genomic privacy, and protein structure prediction."