News Archive 2014

Professor Des Higgins of University College Dublin makes Nature’s Top 10 most highly cited research publications of all time

Thursday, 30 October, 2014 

A research paper by Professor Des Higgins of University College Dublin that set the international standard for DNA sequence analysis is featured in an article published in the latest edition of Nature News on the Top 100 most highly cited research publications of all time. He is the only Irish scientist to be included in the Top 10, and also has a second paper in the Top 30.

Having broken the barrier in 2013 of receiving over 100,000 citations by other scientists for his work, Professor Higgins has become the most highly cited Irish scientist, and amongst the most highly cited scientists in the world.

Professor Des Higgins is Professor of Bioinformatics at the UCD Conway Institute, University College Dublin, and a Principal Investigator at Systems Biology Ireland. He has been working in the areas of bioinformatics and molecular evolution since 1985, predominantly on methods and software for DNA and protein sequence alignment.

In 1988 he developed the original Clustal programme for aligning protein sequences, which has made an exceptional impact in the field. The papers describing Clustal are among the most highly cited bioinformatics papers ever. One of the innovations of that programme was that the algorithm was designed to work on personal computers, which greatly increased its use among scientists and has meant it could be used in laboratories everywhere; today it is considered the industry standard.

"Our laboratory works on methods software that makes it easier for others to make exciting discoveries. Getting mentioned in citation lists like this is an important recognition that helps us to get funding and to prove that what we do is widely used", said Professor Des Higgins.

In the last few years, with funding from Science Foundation Ireland, his laboratory has developed and released Clustal Omega, providing a new generation of alignment software scaled to cope with the enormous datasets that modern science can effortlessly generate. His research group in the UCD Conway Institute currently works on developing new bioinformatics and statistical tools for evolutionary biologists and addresses molecular evolutionary questions using bioinformatics approaches.

“UCD is driven by research excellence, and the work pioneered by Des Higgins in an emerging field is testament to the value of far-reaching research. Bioinformatics fundamentally changed the field of biomedical research and has enabled many of today's advances in personalised medicine”, said Professor Orla Feely, Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact at UCD. “Des has delivered profound impact, not only academically, but also in new technology and product development. His success across the fields of biology and computer science is testament to the true interdisciplinary nature of his research”, she added.

Professor Des Higgins has an international reputation in bioinformatics as an innovator, a leader, and a practical provider of working solutions to key problems. He has published 10 papers with over 1,000 citations. Earlier in 2014 he was named on Thomson Reuters’ list of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds 2014.

Key Papers:

#10 on the List:
Thompson JD, Higgins DG, Gibson TJ. CLUSTAL W: improving the sensitivity of progressive multiple sequence alignment through sequence weighting, position-specific gap penalties and weight matrix choice. Nucleic Acids Res. 1994 Nov 11;22(22):4673-80. PubMed PMID: 7984417; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC308517.
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#28 on the List:
Thompson JD, Gibson TJ, Plewniak F, Jeanmougin F, Higgins DG. The CLUSTAL_X windows interface: flexible strategies for multiple sequence alignment aided by quality analysis tools. Nucleic Acids Res. 1997 Dec 15;25(24):4876-82.
PubMed PMID: 9396791; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC147148.
Read the full article online at: