Jouni Sirén defends his PhD thesis on June 29th, 2012, on Compressed Full-Text Indexes for Highly Repetitive Collections

MSc Jouni Sirén will defend his doctoral thesis Compressed Full-Text Indexes for Highly Repetitive Collections on Friday the 29th of June, 2012 at noon in the University of Helsinki Main Building, Unioninkatu 34, Auditorium XII (old part), 3rd floor.

Compressed Full-Text Indexes for Highly Repetitive Collections

This thesis studies problems related to compressed full-text indexes. A full-text index is a data structure for indexing textual (sequence) data, so that the occurrences of any query string in the data can be found efficiently. While most full-text indexes require much more space than the sequences they index, recent compressed indexes have overcome this limitation. These compressed indexes combine a compressed representation of the index with some extra information that allows decompressing any part of the data efficiently. This way, they provide similar functionality as the uncompressed indexes, while using only slightly more space than the compressed data.

The efficiency of data compression is usually measured in terms of entropy. While entropy-based estimates predict the compressed size of most texts accurately, they fail with highly repetitive collections of texts. Examples of such collections include different versions of a document and the genomes of a number of individuals from the same population. While the entropy of a highly repetitive collection is usually similar to that of a text of the same kind, the collection can often be compressed much better than the entropy-based estimate.

Most compressed full-text indexes are based on the Burrows-Wheeler transform (BWT). Originally intended for data compression, the BWT has deep connections with full-text indexes such as the suffix tree and the suffix array. With some additional information, these indexes can be simulated with the Burrows-Wheeler transform. The first contribution of this thesis is the first BWT-based index that can compress highly repetitive collections efficiently.

Compressed indexes allow us to handle much larger data sets than the corresponding uncompressed indexes. To take full advantage of this, we need algorithms for constructing the compressed index directly, instead of first constructing an uncompressed index and then compressing it. The second contribution of this thesis is an algorithm for merging the BWT-based indexes of two text collections. By using this algorithm, we can derive better space-efficient construction algorithms for BWT-based indexes.

The basic BWT-based indexes provide similar functionality as the suffix array. With some additional structures, the functionality can be extended to that of the suffix tree. One of the structures is an array storing the lengths of the longest common prefixes of lexicographically adjacent suffixes of the text. The third contribution of this thesis is a space-efficient algorithm for constructing this array, and a new compressed representation of the array.

In the case of individual genomes, the highly repetitive collection can be considered a sample from a larger collection. This collection consists of a reference sequence and a set of possible differences from the reference, so that each sequence contains a subset of the differences. The fourth contribution of this thesis is a BWT-based index that extrapolates the larger collection from the sample and indexes it.

Availability of the dissertation

An electronic version of the doctoral dissertation is available on the e-thesis site at

Printed copies are available on request from Jouni Sirén:  040-518 4567 or

14.06.2012 - 14:58 Pirjo Moen
08.06.2012 - 14:51 Pirjo Moen