Dr. Chih Lai's International Collaboration on A.I. Research

March 3, 2020
Chih Lai research students server room blue 315w

Mapping human genomes helps scientists understand the connections between gene mutations and diseases. However, genetic disorders account for about just 10% of known human diseases. The rest of 90% of diseases are triggered by exposure to chemicals in our environment.

Exposing human bodies to different combinations of chemicals in different amounts for different lengths in different stages of our life may have different ripple impacts to our tissues, organs, and eventually diseases. These chain-events are referred to as Adverse Outcome Pathways (AOPs). However, mapping out millions of possible pathways in this complex AOP network is a daunting task. If we can predict possible chain-events, biochemists can focus their efforts on examining more likely pathways, making AOP development more effective.

Dr. Chih Lai and his research team were invited by the National Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ) in Germany to apply Artificial Intelligence techniques for predicting possible AOPs. Dr. Lai’s research team plans to train deep neural networks (DNNs) to absorb knowledge from 16-million medical journal papers. Please see https://sites.google.com/view/aop-international-research/home for details. Since AOPs can also be easily tested and observed in fish embryos, Dr. Lai’s research team is also training DNNs in examining thousands of zebrafish embryo images to predict organ morphology from different toxic exposures.

The following figure shows the predicting growth of a fish embryo at different stage of development. More specifically, the left side and the right side of each sub-figure shows the original and the predicted embryo development.

The full-length video can be viewed at https://youtu.be/xZ2nRo-3pLo.

zebra fish embryos ai

Dr. Lai’s University of St.Thomas research team includes professor Dr. Dalma Martinovic of the Biology department and five international students from the School of Engineering's Graduate Program in Software department and UFZ in Germany. They are Xinyue Alice Sui (China), Avani Saklecha (India), Zezheng Andy Long (China), Akhil Ambekar (India), and Stefan Krämer (Ph.D. student from UFZ, Germany). Dr. Lai currently also serves as a visiting scientist at UFZ and his work was sponsored by the Deutsch Scholarship for Exchange Scientist Program in 2019. UFZ is ranked world No.2 institution on environment and earth science research.

Several students on Dr. Lai’s research team recently graduated with the St. Thomas Master of Science degree in Data Science. They are currently employed in industy in a data science related field:

Avani Saklecha: Senior Data Scientist at Target, Inc.

Zezheng Andy Long: A.I. Quantitative Model Analyst at U.S. Bank.

Xinyue Alice Sui: Data Engineer at BlueStem Brands, Inc.