Irish professor Des Higgins in top 10 most cited papers of all time

30 Oct 2014

Prof Des Higgins of University College Dublin. Image via University College Dublin

Irish professor Des Higgins and his work on bioinformatics has placed him in the journal Nature’s top 10 most cited research papers of all time, making him the only Irish person in the ranking.

The University College Dublin (UCD) professor first broke the 100,000 citations mark last year with his paper entitled Improving the sensitivity of progressive multiple sequence alignment through sequence weighting, position-specific gap penalties and weight matrix choice.

By doing so, he has joined an elite list of academics who have led the way in their particular fields and, in Higgins’ case, the world of bioinformatics, which is fast becoming one of the most exciting fields in science. Nuritas founder and CSO Nora Khaldi, for instance, recently highlighted the field at Silicon Republic’s Innovation Ireland Forum in Dublin.

Working in this area of science since 1985, Higgins developed the original Clustal programme for aligning protein sequences in 1988, which has now become the most cited work in bioinformatics among academics working within this realm of science.

One of the innovations of the Clustal programme is the algorithm designed to work on personal computers, which greatly increased its use among scientists and has meant it could be used in laboratories everywhere, quickly becoming the industry standard.

Another paper by Higgins also made it into the top 30, in 28th place, The CLUSTAL_X windows interface: flexible strategies for multiple sequence alignment aided by quality analysis tools.

Speaking of Higgins’ achievement, Prof Orla Feely, vice-president of Research, Innovation and Impact at UCD said, “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.”


Click image to see full-size image of top 100 infographic by Kyle Bean with design by Wesley Fernandes/Nature

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic