Alex Jiang is currently a sophomore at Cornell University majoring in Computer Science with a minor in Cognitive Science. In 2017, he participated in the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) Program at Cincinnati Children’s under the mentorship of Anil Jegga, DVM, an associate professor of Biomedical Informatics. As a summer research student, Jiang researched methods of characterizing drug-related adverse events by joint analysis of biomedical and genomic data. He is set to present his findings at the upcoming 2018 American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) Informatics Summit.

Photo of Alex Jiang
Summer research student Alex Jiang

I find it fascinating that technology enables us to better understand our own bodies. This interest led me to join a summer research program in Biomedical Informatics, an exciting field with new discoveries being made every day. 

My friends who study at the University of Cincinnati and my parents, who work at Cincinnati Children’s, told me about the SURF program. My SURF experience was productive, meaningful, and great overall! The research I conducted during that time has even been accepted to the AMIA conference. My mentor, Dr. Anil Jegga, was very helpful—always willing to answer my questions, or direct me to someone who could. I also made connections with other researchers and students in the SURF program, who were all friendly and working on interesting projects of their own. 

In my research with Dr. Jegga, we based our study on a central premise that the FDA’s adverse event reporting system (FAERS) captures unsuspected drug-related adverse events. Since drug-related adverse events occur for several reasons, no single approach could predict all of them. We hypothesized that by integrating analysis of biomedical and genomic data, we could characterize drug-related adverse events and generate drug combinations to target them. We then used drug-induced pulmonary fibrosis (DIPF) to test our hypothesis as a proof-of-concept study. 

I was the lead contributor for this project—gathering most of the data, performing much of the analyses, and drafting all written materials. Many others from Dr. Jegga’s lab also gave their support. Researchers Yunguan (Jake) Wang and Dr. Mayur Sarangdhar helped me through my first analyses using new software. Graduate Assistant Jaswanth Yella provided some additional data from a previous study. Dr. Jegga guided my search for data, answered my questions, and edited all my drafts.

I was so excited to receive an invitation to present my research at AMIA! It will be intriguing to meet other people at the conference and learn about their work, and I hope to make a good first impression in the wider professional research community. I am very grateful to Dr. Jegga for giving me this opportunity. 

For my next step, I may pursue a Master’s or PhD degree in Computer Science or Neuroscience. Ultimately, I would like to work on projects that use computational methods to understand the human mind and brain—whether through analogy, as in artificial intelligence, or through direct modeling. 

If you are interested in learning more about informatics training, please visit https://med.uc.edu/bmigrad

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