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From biology to mathematics: the neighbor-joining algorithm


Speaker: Lior Pachter, UC Berkeley
Location: 2112 MSB
Start time: Tue, Nov 13 2007, 4:10PM

The neighbor-joining algorithm is a popular phylogenetic tree inference method invented by two biologists (Naruya Saitou and Masatoshi Nei) in 1987. During the past twenty years there have been numerous attempts to understand the theoretical underpinnings of the algorithm. We will explain a number of recent results that provide a clear picture of what the algorithm is optimizing, why it is robust, and how it can be improved. In particular, we discuss interesting mathematical connections to polyhedral geometry and explain the relevance of the space M0,n(R).