DAC M.S. student Jeff Roberston

Jeff Robertson grew up in Blacksburg and is the fifth Hokie in his family. “So, it was not difficult for me to choose Virginia Tech,” he said.

Working towards a master’s degree in computer science applications, Robertson’s current research is part of the Fun GCAT project in collaboration with the Biocomplexity Institute of Virginia Tech.

Within that larger program, his focus is on developing a new tool that can efficiently index and search massive biological data sets.

“The idea I’m investigating is based on the fact that these databases of DNA and protein sequences are relatively low entropy for their size, meaning that they have some inherent redundancy due to their biological nature,” he said. “I am researching what techniques can be incorporated into a tool so that the query time and index size are proportional to the entropy of the data set instead of its size.”

Robertson — who earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science at Virginia Tech — was introduced to this type of work in an undergraduate course, Intro to Computational Biology and Bioinformatics. That led to a senior capstone project in the same study area and his interest has only grown from there, he said.

Lenwood Heath, a professor in the Department of Computer Science and DAC faculty member, taught the undergrad course that influenced Robertson’s academic path and is now his advisor.