Professor Wheeler Awarded NIH Grant

Professor Travis Wheeler has been awarded a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (a division of the National Institutes of Health) to develop “Improved protein-DNA models for translated sequence search with profile Hidden Markov models”. The grant is for $426K over three years, beginning April 1, 2017.

Fast and sensitive sequence database search is fundamental to modern molecular biology. The funded research will improve the accuracy of annotation of protein-coding content in sequenced genomes and metagenomic datasets. The research builds on established sequence database search software that employs probabilistic models to increase sensitivity through greater statistical power and ability to better model family complexity. The probabilistic models are called profile hidden Markov models (profile HMMs), and the software is HMMER.

Dr. Wheeler’s group will develop new models that account for frameshifting mutations or errors that obscure the protein-coding nature of sequence, and for splice sites that break genes or domains into distant fragments on the genome. Through a combination of new algorithms and application of existing approaches, these models will be fast enough to use for large-scale annotation, such as in the EMBL European Bioinformatics Institute’s  Metagenomics Portal.

For questions about this project or to get involved, contact Travis Wheeler (

Anonymous Donor provides scholarships for Montana CS students

We gratefully acknowledge an Anonymous Donor who has provided for the continuation of the J.R. Scholarship for Montana Computer Scientists, with a $200,000 gift that will support five $10,000 scholarships per year for four years (AY 2018-2022).

Eligibility requirements:

  • Montana high school graduates who will major in Computer Science at the University of Montana.
  • Recipients must demonstrate service and/or volunteerism in their community.
  • Of the five scholarships awarded annually, the preference is for one award to be made to a graduate of a Ravalli County high school. If there are no qualified Ravalli County high school graduates then another qualifying Montana high school graduate may be selected.

For further details about this and other scholarships for UM CS students, please visit our scholarships page.

Grad students Kyle Handy and Andre Gillan present research at international conference

20161209_095142MS students Kyle Handy and Andre Gillan recently presented research conducted in the Computational Mass Spectrometry lab at the University of Montana at the 2016 Biotechnology and Bioinformatics Symposium (BIOT) held at Brigham Young University in Provo, UT 8-9 Dec. BIOT is an annual peer reviewed bioinformatics conference attended by researchers from around the world.

Kyle Handy presented a novel software package for mass spectrometry signal segmentation, the first program ever created to solve this type of problem. Andre Gillan’s presentation presented a new parser for mass spectrometry data that outperformed all existing parsers. Handy and Gillan were accompanied by their advisor, Dr. Rob Smith, director of the Computational Mass Spectrometry lab at the University of Montana.

Gianforte Family Foundation Supports Growth of UM Computer Science

The Gianforte Family Foundation once again has shown its dedication to supporting education and job creation in Montana, pledging $290,000 to the University of Montana’s Department of Computer Science. The two-year gift will help the department grow its enrollment capacity, ultimately graduating more computer science majors and minors for careers in Montana’s growing technology sector.

The generous gift will underwrite two new lecturers, allowing our department to expand sections of its introductory computing classes and create two new foundational courses. The department’s goal is to double the number of computer science majors and minors during the next five years.

The first lecturer, Trish Duce, was hired over the summer and started teaching this fall. A second will join for the 2017-18 academic year. In addition to the lecturer positions, the gift supports Assistant Professor Rob Smith‘s efforts to work with local businesses to develop internship opportunities and help students attain them.

In Montana and nationwide, high-tech jobs go unfilled because there aren’t enough graduates with computer science training. In addition, more and more careers use computing in their respective fields. To address this, UM’s computer science department worked with the Gianforte Family Foundation to develop a plan to increase enrollment and grow course offerings by creating courses that show the relevance of computing in other disciplines. These new offerings allow for a cross-disciplinary computer science minor and provide students with a broader skill-set for today’s technological workplace.

“Computer science is a growing and needed field,” said Andrew Ware, professor and chair of the Department of Computer Science. “By building our department, we can help more students find high-paying jobs and fill a need in the state’s economy.”

“Computing is increasingly important across many academic disciplines and careers,” said Greg Gianforte, foundation board member. “We’re excited to work with the University of Montana to help expand cross-disciplinary computer science courses for all students on campus, and to help connect these students with good jobs in Montana.”

(text is largely reproduced from a UM news release: link to original)

We’re hiring

We’re pleased to announce that the University of Montana Computer Science Department is hiring two positions to begin in Fall 2017. We’ve begun a search for both a tenure track faculty position ( and a non-tenure track full-time lecturer position ( For both positions, applications received by Jan 15, 2017 will be given priority consideration.


2016 Computer Science High Tech Career Fair

20161013_110807The department hosted its third annual high tech career fair last week. More than one hundred students attended from 17 majors. Corporate attendees from ten high tech companies attended to fill dozens of open entry level positions–mostly in Montana.
Computer science provides high paying jobs in Montana and nationwide, with gaps between supply and demand increasing at a record pace. The demand makes for very competitive salary offers, particularly in contrast to other industries, where Montana wages tend to be lower than national averages.

Professor Reimer awarded NSF grant to grow CS across Montana

Professor Yolanda Reimer, together with UM colleague Lisa Blank (T&L) and other faculty from around the state, has been awarded a grant from the NSF CS10K program to “Grow Computer Science Curriculum, Diversity, and Teacher Preparedness across Montana.” The goals of this project are to enhance computer science offerings at high screimerhools around the state, increase the diversity of students who engage in computer science, and add to the number of teachers trained to teach CS at the high school level. Professor Reimer will co-teach the “Joy and Beauty of Computing” class at Sentinel HS in Missoula this fall, and develop a follow-on course in Computer Science Principles. Professional development opportunities will be offered to teachers from around the state beginning in the summer of 2017. For questions about this project or to get involved, contact Yolanda Reimer (