MRC Human Genetics Unit
Medical Research Council Human Genetics Unit

Cross-Disciplinary Fellow joins IGMM as Lecturer in Biomedical AI

​​​​​​​Dr Ava Khamseh has recently been appointed Lecturer in Biomedical Artificial Intelligence with the MRC Human Genetics Unit, Cancer Research UK Edinburgh Centre and the School of Informatics: July 2020

Dr Ava Khamseh
Dr Ava Khamseh

Ava’s new post will conduct inter-disciplinary science by combining development and application of computational and machine learning-based methods to address relevant and impactful problems in biomedicine. Ava is half way through the 4 year Cross-Disciplinary Fellowships (XDF) Programme and now leads a research group focusing on causal molecular interactions in the context of cancer and population biomedicine.

We spoke to Ava to find out more about her experience and her hopes for the future through her new role, and started by asking her how she became interested in biology and biomedical research. “Research in quantitative biomedicine is highly dynamical and fast-paced. I became fascinated by technological advances such as CRISPR-Cas9 genome engineering and single-cell multiomics and how they can be harnessed to answer fundamental questions in biomedicine. Addressing modern challenges in quantitative biomedicine requires working across different disciplines and bringing in knowledge from other fields, including physics, mathematics, statistics and computer science. Coming from a theoretical background, I found the idea of simultaneously creating experimental designs to generate data whilst developing quantitative methods in parallel to derive meaning from the data, very exciting.”

We were also curious about what Ava felt she gained through the Cross-Disciplinary Fellowships (XDF) Programme. “The XDF programme provided an excellent opportunity for developing experimental design and wet-lab skills, as well as further mathematical, statistical and computational skills geared towards applications for biomedical data. The flexibility in the first year of the programme means that one can explore a wide range of projects, with a large degree of freedom to develop one’s own ideas and research programme. In particular, the guidance from the XDF mentors and directors, both in terms of the science and the research culture in biomedicine, has been extremely illuminating throughout.”

To conclude, Ava contemplated her hopes for the future. “With the existence of the XDF programme and other similar schemes, I hope that biology, technology, data science and statistical and mathematical theory all become part of a more unified framework in which experimental biology and method development are not seen as disjointed subfields. By training further in both these directions, I hope to be able to communicate and collaborate effectively with colleagues across a wide range of disciplines in order to shed light on some of the most pressing questions in fields such as cancer research and population medicine.“

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