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Third MScBMI Capstone Showcase Features Biomedical Projects Exemplifying the Full Range of Present-Day Informatics Engagement

Biomedical Informatics students present their capstone projects--which seek to apply data and informatics to healthcare challenges.

The Master of Science in Biomedical Informatics (BMI) program at the Graham School hosted its third capstone showcase this Saturday, December 2, at the Knapp Center for Biomedical Discovery, bringing together eight students set to receive their diplomas on December 8 for a morning of presentations focused on the results—as well as the tools used to arrive at the results—of their many months of research.

“We are happy to see everyone here this Saturday morning,” said Suzanne Cox, PhD, BMI program director, in introductory remarks emphasizing the exceptional work the students as well as the BMI community contributed to the day’s projects. 

“It’s exciting to bring together all these projects as way of getting a condensed snapshot of the variety of work happening today in the field of biomedical informatics,” she added, before introducing Vladimir Liarski, MD, who kicked off the day’s presentations with a project that built on prior research seeking to develop a method to objectively segment and classify the anatomic structures of digital images of the human kidney. For his project, Liarski, who is also an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine, developed a machine learning approach that used openCV to perform classifier training on a database split into a testing and training dataset.

In addition to the BMI students past and present in attendance, there were members of the program’s faculty and industry advisory group as well, including Cris Doloc, PhD, program instructor and founder of ALGOMEX, Imran Kahn, instructor and member of the leadership team at AbbVie, Susan Nedza, MD, advisor to the program and senior vice president at MPA Healthcare Solutions, and Sam Volchenboumn, PhD, MD, faculty director as well as director at the Center for Research Informatics at the University of Chicago. Their presence heightened the animated discussions that followed on each student’s presentation, with questions that pushed the soon-to-be graduates to situate their work in the broader field of biomedical informatics engagement.

As indicative of the full range of approaches and goals presently occupying workers in the field of biomedical informatics, some projects, like Liarski’s, focused primarily on pure research, while others revolved around uncovering solutions to practical informatics challenges facing healthcare providers today. Exemplifying the latter was Qi He’s project, which used data from 1,885 patients collected at the University of Chicago hospitals to identify an association between oral health status and demographic, socioeconomic, and clinical predictors.

Concluding the day’s presentations was Katherine Naughton, a research technologist for the Ober Lab at UChicago, whose research sought to identify associations in levels of differential DNA methylation with relatedness through using data from individuals from a highly related population.

“Katherine’s project is a really great example of the difference between science-oriented research and research that’s more focused on informatics,” Cox said. “Although the results of Katherine’s project weren’t necessarily groundbreaking from a scientific perspective, the informatics tools she developed to conduct her analysis were very advanced and novel. They will very likely prove useful in a future project whose scientific results could prove significant.”