Photograph of Alison Davis Rabosky

Alison Davis Rabosky

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Our research group studies how and why an organism’s traits (“phenotypes”) evolve in natural populations. Explaining the mechanisms that generate and regulate patterns of phenotypic diversity is a major goal of evolutionary biology: why do we see rapid shifts to strikingly new and distinct character states, and how stable are these evolutionary transitions across space and time? To answer these questions, we generate and analyze high-throughput “big data” on both genomes and phenotypes across the 18,000 species of reptiles and amphibians across the globe. Then, we use the statistical tools of phylogenetic comparative analysis, geometric morphometrics of 3D anatomy generated from CT scans, and genome annotation and comparative transcriptomics to understand the integrated trait correlations that create complex phenotypes. Currently, we are using machine learning and neural networks to study the color patterns of animals vouchered into biodiversity collections and test hypotheses about the ecological causes and evolutionary consequences of phenotypic innovation. We are especially passionate about the effective and accurate visualization of large-scale multidimensional datasets, and we prioritize training in both best practices and new innovations in quantitative data display.

Picture of Besa Xhabija

Besa Xhabija

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Dr. Xhabija joined the Department of Natural Sciences in September 2022 as an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry. Her laboratory aims to understand the effects of toxins on early embryonic development utilizing embryonic stem cells because they provide a new tool and opportunity to investigate the impact of environmental exposures and their interactions with genetic factors on human development and health. To fully realize these potentials, she believes that it is important to understand the molecular basis of the defining characteristic of the stem cells. More specifically, she is interested in investigating how stem cells play a role in shaping the expression program during development and how mechanisms of self-renewal and differentiation during mammalian development regulate cellular fate decisions.

Xiaoquan William Wen

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Xiaoquan (William) Wen is an Associate Professor of Biostatistics. He received his PhD in Statistics from the University of Chicago in 2011 and joined the faculty at the University of Michigan in the same year. His research centers on developing Bayesian and computational statistical methods to answer interesting scientific questions arising from genetics and genomics.

In the applied field,  he is  particularly interested in seeking statistically sound and computationally efficient solutions to scientific problems in the areas of genetics and functional genomics.
Quantifying tissue-specific expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) via Bayesian model comparison

Quantifying tissue-specific expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) via Bayesian model comparison

Lubomir Hadjiyski

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Dr. Hadjiyski research interests include computer-aided diagnosis, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, predictive models, image processing and analysis, medical imaging, and control systems. His current research involves design of decision support systems for detection and diagnosis of cancer in different organs and quantitative analysis of integrated multimodality radiomics, histopathology and molecular biomarkers for treatment response monitoring using AI and machine learning techniques. He also studies the effect of the decision support systems on the physicians’ clinical performance.

Gen Li

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Dr. Gen Li is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biostatistics. He is devoted to developing new statistical methods for analyzing complex biomedical data, including multi-way tensor array data, multi-view data, and compositional data. His methodological research interests include dimension reduction, predictive modeling, association analysis, and functional data analysis. He also has research interests in scientific domains including microbiome and genomics.

Novel tree-guided regularization methods can identify important microbial features at different taxonomic ranks that are predictive of the clinical outcome.

Yixin Wang

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Yixin Wang works in the fields of Bayesian statistics, machine learning, and causal inference, with applications to recommender systems, text data, and genetics. She also works on algorithmic fairness and reinforcement learning, often via connections to causality. Her research centers around developing practical and trustworthy machine learning algorithms for large datasets that can enhance scientific understandings and inform daily decision-making. Her research interests lie in the intersection of theory and applications.

Elle O’Brien

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My research focuses on building infrastructure for public health and health science research organizations to take advantage of cloud computing, strong software engineering practices, and MLOps (machine learning operations). By equipping biomedical research groups with tools that facilitate automation, better documentation, and portable code, we can improve the reproducibility and rigor of science while scaling up the kind of data collection and analysis possible.

Research topics include:
1. Open source software and cloud infrastructure for research,
2. Software development practices and conventions that work for academic units, like labs or research centers, and
3. The organizational factors that encourage best practices in reproducibility, data management, and transparency

The practice of science is a tug of war between competing incentives: the drive to do a lot fast, and the need to generate reproducible work. As data grows in size, code increases in complexity and the number of collaborators and institutions involved goes up, it becomes harder to preserve all the “artifacts” needed to understand and recreate your own work. Technical AND cultural solutions will be needed to keep data-centric research rigorous, shareable, and transparent to the broader scientific community.

View MIDAS Faculty Research Pitch, Fall 2021


Felipe da Veiga Lerprevost

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My research concentrates on the area of bioinformatics, proteomics, and data integration. I am particularly interested in mass spectrometry-based proteomics, software development for proteomics, cancer proteogenomics, and transcriptomics. The computational methods and tools previously developed by my colleagues and me, such as PepExplorer, MSFragger, Philosopher, and PatternLab for Proteomics, are among the most referred proteome informatics tools and are used by hundreds of laboratories worldwide.

I am also a Proteogenomics Data Analysis Center (UM-PGDAC) member as part of the NCI’s Clinical Proteomic Tumor Analysis Consortium (CPTAC) initiative for processing and analyzing hundreds of cancer proteomics samples. UM-PGDAC develops advanced computational infrastructure for comprehensive and global characterization of genomics, transcriptomics, and proteomics data collected from several human tumor cohorts using NCI-provided biospecimens. Since 2019 I have been working as a bioinformatics data analyst with the University of Michigan Proteomics Resource Facility, which provides state-of-the-art capabilities in proteomics to the University of Michigan investigators, including Rogel Cancer Center investigators as Proteomics Shared Resource.

Lana Garmire

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My research interest lies in applying data science for actionable transformation of human health from the bench to bedside. Current research focus areas include cutting edge single-cell sequencing informatics and genomics; precision medicine through integration of multi-omics data types; novel modeling and computational methods for biomarker research; public health genomics. I apply my biomedical informatics and analytical expertise to study diseases such as cancers, as well the impact of pregnancy/early life complications on later life diseases.

Thomas Schmidt

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The current goal of our research is to learn enough about the physiology and ecology of microbes and microbial communities in the gut that we are able to engineer the gut microbiome to improve human health. The first target of our engineering is the production of butyrate – a common fermentation product of some gut microbes that is essential for human health. Butyrate is the preferred energy source for mitochondria in the epithelial cells lining the gut and it also regulates their gene expression.

One of the most effective ways to influence the composition and metabolism of the gut microbiota is through diet. In an interventional study, we have tracked responses in the composition and fermentative metabolism of the gut microtiota in >800 healthy individuals. Emerging patterns suggest several configurations of the microbiome that can result in increased production of butyrate acid. We have isolated the microbes that form an anaerobic food web to convert dietary fiber to butyrate and continue to make discoveries about their physiology and interactions. Based on these results, we have initiated a clinical trial in which we are hoping to prevent the development of Graft versus Host Disease following bone marrow transplants by managing butyrate production by the gut microbiota.

We are also beginning to track hundreds of other metabolites from the gut microbiome that may influence human health. We use metagenomes and metabolomes to identify patterns that link the microbiota with their metabolites and then test those models in human organoids and gnotobiotic mice colonized with synthetic communities of microbes. This blend of wet-lab research in basic microbiology, data science and in ecology is moving us closer to engineering the gut microbiome to improve human health.