Williams earned her B.S. in computer science from Marquette University and Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Central Florida. Afterward, she was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of New Mexico.
Williams' research interests are in the areas of bioinformatics and high-performance computing — especially as it relates to reconstructing evolutionary trees (or phylogenies) of organisms. Her work makes sophisticated use of algorithms and data structures, employs high-performance tools, and is grounded in the empirical analysis of real-world datasets. Williams has served on several conference program committees and is currently the associate editor for Systematic Biology. Her research is currently supported by the National Science Foundation.
In addition to her research and teaching, Williams is committed to the advancement of women and members of underrepresented groups in computing. Examples include serving as technical program co-chair for the Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Conference, serving on the program committee for the Grace Hopper Celebration, and speaking at various career mentoring events. Currently, she is a co-chair for CRA-W's Distributed Research Experiences for Undergraduates program. Williams' honors include a Radcliffe Institute Fellowship, an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, and a McKnight Doctoral Fellowship.
The Denice Denton Emerging Leader Award is presented each year to a junior tenure-track faculty member at an academic or research institution, who is pursuing high-quality research in any field of engineering or physical sciences, while demonstrating significant leadership capability and contributing significantly to the promotion of diversity.