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.


Lia Corrales

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My PhD research focused on identifying the size and mineralogical composition of interstellar dust through X-ray imaging of dust scattering halos to X-ray spectroscopy of bright objects to study absorption from intervening material. Over the course of my PhD I also developed an open source, object oriented approach to computing extinction properties of particles in Python that allows the user to change the scattering physics models and composition properties of dust grains very easily. In many cases, the signal I look for from interstellar dust requires evaluating the observational data on the 1-5% level. This has required me to develop a deep understanding of both the instrument and the counting statistics (because modern-day X-ray instruments are photon counting tools). My expertise led me to a postdoc at MIT, where I developed techniques to obtain high resolution X-ray spectra from low surface brightness (high background) sources imaged with the Chandra X-ray Observatory High Energy Transmission Grating Spectrometer. I pioneered these techniques in order to extract and analyze the high resolution spectrum of Sgr A*, our Galaxy’s central supermassive black hole (SMBH), producing a legacy dataset with a precision that will not be replaceable for decades. This dataset will be used to understand why Sgr A* is anomalously inactive, giving us clues to the connection between SMBH activity and galactic evolution. In order to publish the work, I developed an open source software package, pyXsis (github.com/eblur/pyxsis) in order to model the low signal-to-noise spectrum of Sgr A* simultaneously with a non-physical parameteric model of the background spectrum (Corrales et al., 2020). As a result of my vocal advocacy for Python compatible software tools and a modular approach to X-ray data analysis, I became Chair for HEACIT (which stands for “High Energy Astrophysics Codes, Interfaces, and Tools”), a new self-appointed working group of X-ray software engineers and early career scientists interested in developing tools for future X-ray observatories. We are working to identify science cases that high energy astronomers find difficult to support with the current software libraries, provide a central and publicly available online forum for tutorials and discussion of current software libraries, and develop a set of best practices for X-ray data analysis. My research focus is now turning to exoplanet atmospheres, where I hope to measure absorption from molecules and aerosols in the UV. Utilizing UM access to the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, I work to observe the dip in a star’s brightness caused by occultation (transit) from a foreground planet. Transit depths are typically <1%, and telescopes like Swift were not originally designed with transit measurements (i.e., this level of precision) in mind. As a result, this research strongly depends on robust methods of scientific inference from noisy datasets.


As a graduate student, I attended some of the early “Python in Astronomy” workshops. While there, I wrote Jupyter Notebook tutorials that helped launch the Astropy Tutorials project (github.com/astropy/astropy-tutorials), which expanded to Learn Astropy (learn.astropy.org), for which I am a lead developer. Since then, I have also become a leader within the larger Astropy collaboration. I have helped develop the Astropy Project governance structure, hired maintainers, organized workshops, and maintained an AAS presence for the Astropy Project and NumFocus (the non-profit umbrella organization that works to sustain open source software communities in scientific computing) for the last several years. As a woman of color in a STEM field, I work to clear a path by teaching the skills I have learned along the way to other underrepresented groups in STEM. This year I piloted WoCCode (Women of Color Code), an online network and webinar series for women from minoritized backgrounds to share expertise and support each other in contributing to open source software communities.

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.

Allison Earl

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My primary research interests are understanding the causes and consequences of biased selection and attention to persuasive information, particularly in the context of health promotion. Simply stated, I am interested in what we pay attention to and why, and how this attention (or inattention) influences attitudinal and behavioral outcomes, such as persuasion and healthy behavior. In particular, my work has addressed disparities in attention to information about HIV prevention for African-Americans compared to European-Americans as a predictor of disparities in health outcomes. I am also exploring barriers to attention to health information by African-Americans, including the roles of stigma, shame, fear, and perceptions of irrelevance. At a more basic attitudes and persuasion level, I am currently pursuing work relevant to how we select information for liked versus disliked others, and how the role of choice influences how we process information we agree versus disagree with.

Omar Jamil Ahmed

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The Ahmed lab studies behavioral neural circuits and attempts to repair them when they go awry in neurological disorders. Working with patients and with transgenic rodent models, we focus on how space, time and speed are encoded by the spatial navigation and memory circuits of the brain. We also focus on how these same circuits go wrong in Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy. Our research involves the collection of massive volumes of neural data. Within these terabytes of data, we work to identify and understand irregular activity patterns at the sub-millisecond level. This requires us to leverage high performance computing environments, and to design custom algorithmic and analytical signal processing solutions. As part of our research, we also discover new ways for the brain to encode information (how neurons encode sequences of space and time, for example) – and the algorithms utilized by these natural neural networks can have important implications for the design of more effective artificial neural networks.

Xu Wang

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My research is to support more people learn in effective ways. I draw techniques and theories from Human-Computer Interaction, Learning Sciences, and Artificial Intelligence to develop computational methods and systems to support scalable teaching and learning. There are several directions in my research that draw on data science techniques and also contribute to interdisciplinary data science research, 1) data-driven authoring techniques of intelligent tutoring systems, with application domains in UX education and data science education 2) AI-augmented instructional design and the use Human-AI collaborative techniques in instructional design.

Joyce Penner

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I am new to researching in Artificial Intelligence used in Atmospheric Sciences. Previous experience is in comparing satellite data products with 3-D global simulations.

Mithun Chakraborty

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My broad research interests are in multi-agent systems, computational economics and finance, and artificial intelligence. I apply techniques from algorithmic game theory, statistical machine learning, decision theory, etc. to a variety of problems at the intersection of the computational and social sciences. A major focus of my research has been the design and analysis of market-making algorithms for financial markets and, in particular, prediction markets — incentive-based mechanisms for aggregating data in the form of private beliefs about uncertain events (e.g. the outcome of an election) distributed among strategic agents. I use both analytical and simulation-based methods to investigate the impact of factors such as wealth, risk attitude, manipulative behavior, etc. on information aggregation in market ecosystems. Another line of work I am pursuing involves algorithms for allocating resources based on preference data collected from potential recipients, satisfying efficiency, fairness, and diversity criteria; my joint work on ethnicity quotas in Singapore public housing allocation deserves special mention in this vein. More recently, I have got involved in research on empirical game-theoretic analysis, a family of methods for building tractable models of complex, procedurally defined games from empirical/simulated payoff data and using them to reason about game outcomes.

Bogdan I. Epureanu

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• Computational dynamics focused on nonlinear dynamics and finite elements (e.g., a new approach for forecasting bifurcations/tipping points in aeroelastic and ecological systems, new finite element methods for thin walled beams that leads to novel reduced order models).
• Modeling nonlinear phenomena and mechano-chemical processes in molecular motor dynamics, such as motor proteins, toward early detection of neurodegenerative diseases.
• Computational methods for robotics, manufacturing, modeling multi-body dynamics, developed methods for identifying limit cycle oscillations in large-dimensional (fluid) systems.
• Turbomachinery and aeroelasticity providing a better understanding of fundamental complex fluid dynamics and cutting-edge models for predicting, identifying and characterizing the response of blisks and flade systems through integrated experimental & computational approaches.
• Structural health monitoring & sensing providing increased sensibility / capabilities by the discovery, characterization and exploitation of sensitivity vector fields, smart system interrogation through nonlinear feedback excitation, nonlinear minimal rank perturbation and system augmentation, pattern recognition for attractors, damage detection using bifurcation morphing.