Q. What projects are you currently working on?A.
I am really interested in using artificial intelligence tools like deep learning to improve the assessment of risk in cancer patients. In particular, I am working on computational models that analyze digital scans of breast cancer resections to provide a risk assessment to help pathologists and oncologists make better decisions about patient care. I am especially focused on creating models that are interpretable by pathologists and other trained experts, which helps validate the system and increase its trustworthiness and clinical adoption. Q. Would you like to share a publication you are proud of being associated with?A.
One of the projects I am most proud of is called NuCLS, which was published in the journal GigaScience last year (at this link
). This project aimed to systematically explore the ability of medical students to contribute annotation data that can be used to train deep learning systems to detect cells automatically. This is a task because it allows our models to offer explanations when they make assessments about patient risk assessment or suggested diagnoses. What's special about this project is that we recruited over 30 medical students and seven pathologists to work collaboratively on this. We explored questions like "Are student annotations reliable? If so, under what conditions? How can we aggregate the opinions of multiple students to leverage the wisdom of the crowds to partially compensate for the lack of expertise?" It was a fun project that involved mentorship and peer support, and a number of these students went ahead and became pathology residents.
Q. What would people be surprised to know about you?
A. I think most people who only know me through my online persona would assume that I am mostly a serious/formal person. Sure, I am serious in professional settings, but in almost all other settings, I have a fairly relaxed attitude toward life. I think people here also get very surprised when I share with them that I've lived for 1-6 years in each of five countries on three continents and that this was very formative of my current personality.
Q. What have you learned that's made a difference for you?
A. Computer programming. I took a gap research year during the last year of medical school, where I spent time at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology in Japan working in a fruit fly lab. As luck would have it, one of the projects I worked on required some knowledge of computer programming using a language called MATLAB. I found something magical about writing code that really spoke to me - I believe it's the state of "flow" and intense focus that drew me the most. Fast forward five years, and I recently graduated with a PhD in computational pathology and am about to start my pathology residency at Northwestern in the physician-scientist track. All because of a small project that nudged me to learn some programming!
Q. Who inspires you?
A. I don't want to give a specific person's name because I take the saying, "Never meet your heroes," seriously; we all are humans and have 24 hours a day to sleep, work, family, etc. That said, I find people with a high tolerance for risk to be inspiring, perhaps because I fall on the risk-averse side of life. For example, I have a friend who isn't afraid to take their backpack and crash on a stranger's couch in another city for the sake of earning a new life experience, even when they're low on cash. The same goes for entrepreneurs who start risky businesses. I know life is short, but I also worry about the future, and I'm in a constant struggle to find the right balance between prioritizing present versus future happiness.