Samantha Zarate

Samantha Zarate, a graduate student in the Department of Computer Science, has been awarded the 2022 Mark O. Robbins Prize in High-Performance Computing.

The Robbins prize was established in 2020 to recognize outstandingly talented PhD students who reflect Dr. Robbins contributions to computational science and engineering.

Zarate utilizes high-performance computing in her work with genomic structural variation and analysis. She is is advised by Bloomberg Distinguished Professor Michael C. Schatz.

Driven by the exponential growth of data, our understanding of genomics has rapidly improved over the last 20 years. Several million human genomes have already been sequenced – comprising nearly 100 petabytes of data – for biology and medicine. Zarate’s research focuses on analyzing genomic variation at such a challenging scale.

As part of her research, she has developed an algorithm for large-scale analysis of DNA structural variants (SVs), which are large mutations in the genome. Cost-efficient SV analysis allows researchers to better understand their implications, which may include clinical diagnoses such as autism spectrum disorder and cancers.

Furthermore, Zarate co-led the variant analysis team of the Telomere-to-Telomere (T2T) Consortium, which recently developed the first complete human genome. Her contribution to the project was investigating the impacts of the T2T genome on variant analysis across more than 3,200 individuals. Her team found that this new human reference genome improves analysis of genetic variation in globally diverse individuals, including within clinically relevant genes.

Winners of the Robbins prize will receive a plaque and a $3,000 cash prize. Zarate will also be invited to present her work at an upcoming ARCH (Advanced Research Computing at Hopkins)-sponsored conference. 

Dr. Mark Robbins was a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins from 1986 until his untimely death in 2020. He was a renowned condensed matter and statistical physicist who played a key role in supporting the development of computational facilities at Johns Hopkins, through his leadership for the Maryland Advanced Research Computing Center (MARCC) in the Institute for Data Intensive Engineering and Science (IDIES).

The Robbins’ Prize is made possible thanks to generous donations from IDIES, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute (HEMI), Department of Mechanical Engineering, and the Department of Physics and Astronomy.