In the news / Big Data

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The use of new technologies and automation raises questions about the impact on the job market and their respective hacking vulnerabilities. Dr. Larry Head, BIO5 faculty member and professor of Systems and Industrial Engineering at UA, discusses the importance of consumers doing research about the safety of autonomous vehicles before using them. 
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Thrombocytopenia, or HIT, is a deficiency of blood platelets, the cells that help blood clot. A team of UA College of Medicine-Tucson researchers including Associate Vice President and Director of the Center for Biomedical Informatics and Biostatistics at UA Health Sciences, Dr. Yves Lussier, is working in support of a new grant with the aim to identify predictive and early biomarkers for HIT.
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Struggling to make sense of a large amount of student evaluations from her UA introductory biology course, Associate Vice Provost in the Office of Instruction and Assessment and BIO5 member, Dr. Lisa Elfring, developed a way to visualize the feedback. This kind of presentation provides her with the ability to create and test hypotheses of what students thought of a course.
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Although rare, common medications – including azithromycin and ondansetron – can contribute to prolonged heart-recharging intervals, which may lead to serious complications and hospital stays. To address this problem, UA researchers including College of Medicine-Phoenix professor Dr. Raymond Woosley, work to implement alerts embedded in patients’ electronic health records to assist health-care providers in mitigating sudden cardiac death.
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Researchers have found that emphysema may be a unique risk factor for aneurysm, potentially giving doctors another tool to identify people with aneurysms
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Testing a long-held hypothesis of a late UA professor, fellow UA Ecology and Evolutionary Biology professor and BIO5 faculty, Dr. Alexander Badyaev, has led a team to show that evolution is driven by species interaction within a community. Studying nearly 300 bird species, Dr. Badyaev’s team built and tested their carotenoid biochemical pathways to explore how the populations changed over the last 50 million years.
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BIO5's Dr. Roberta Diaz Brinton, an internationally recognized expert on Alzheimer’s disease and Inaugural Director of the Center for Innovation in Brain Science at UAHS, has received a five-year, $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health Institute on Aging. With the funding, Brinton will develop a unique training program to cultivate a diverse pool of highly trained scientists from diverse fields who can effectively address the nation’s Alzheimer’s research needs.
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The Flinn Foundation awarded a $1.5 million grant to UA College of Medicine’s Division of Clinical Data Analytics and Decision Support (CDADS). “The Flinn Foundation grant is the result of several years of planning by the UA College of Medicine-Phoenix to incorporate precision medicine into the curriculum and into faculty research programs,” said BIO5 member Dr. Raymond Woosley, Co-Director of the Division of Clinical Data Analytics and Decision Support
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The Flinn Foundation awarded the Division of Clinical Data Analytics and Decision Support (CDADS) at the UA College of Medicine - Phoenix $1.5 million to incorporate pharmacogenomics and clinical decision support into clinician training and medical practice. BIO5's Dr. Raymond Woosley, is Co-Director of the Division of Clinical Data Analytics and Decision Support.
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UA researchers are building a quantum hub known as Inquire, which will be the world's first shared research and training instrument to help researchers in diverse fields benefit from quantum resources. The interdisicplinary research team includes Dr. Jennifer Barton, Director of the BIO5 Institute and UA Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Biosystems Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Dr. Marek Romanowski, BIO5 member and Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, and Materials Science and Engineering.
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Imaging and genomic technologies have dramatically increased the amount of information generated and used to make clinical decisions for diseases like Alzheimer's. “There is an untapped opportunity to leverage existing data from longitudinal cohorts, from the postmortem human brain, and from clinical trials to help the field advance our shared goals more effectively than we otherwise could,” said BIO5 member Dr. Eric Reiman, Executive Director of the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute.
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BIO5's Dr. Mohammed Hassan, UA Assistant Professor of Physics and Optical Sciences, wants the UA to be the first place where humans take a photo of an electron in motion. Thanks to $1.75M in grants, Hassan says he will make that happen in the coming years.
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The UA's Data Science Institute, known as Data7, a unit of the Office of Research, Discovery and Innovation, is focused on connecting researchers, fostering collaboration and promoting literacy across campus. UA-TRIPODS, an integrated research and educational institute funded by the National Science Foundation, shares these goals and also is focused on developing new algorithms and foundational approaches necessary for large-scale data-driven research.
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Dr. Justina McEvoy, Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and member of the UA Cancer Center and the UA BIO5 Institute has focused her work on Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS), a rare cancer of the skeletal muscle that primarily affects pediatric patients. Dr. McEvoy and her team have sifted through a large genetic and protein database collected for rhabdomyosarcoma to identify pathways containing potential drug targets.
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UA ecologist and member of the BIO5 Institute, Dr. Ramona Walls is co-author on a recent Nature Ecology and Evolution paper, "Measuring species traits for biodiversity policy goals". This new research is part of collaboration with scientists around the world in an effort to study how species are responding to global changes in habitat, environment and climate.
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The KEYS Summer Research Internship Program lets high school students work alongside university faculty in top research labs. “Our interns learned to use tools that data scientists use every day...Their contributions will be used by many of the researchers that take advantage of our open access platform,” said Nirav Merchant, BIO5 member, CyVerse Co-Principal Investigator and Director of Data7.
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Drug interactions can pose a serious risk to patients when they are not identified and addressed. That is why a team of UA researchers, including BIO5's Dr. Vignesh Subbian, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and the Department of Systems & Industrial Engineering, are developing a drug interaction knowledge database, combined with clinically validated algorithms, which is expected to increase the specificity of warnings concerning dangerous drug combinations.
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UA Venture Capital Fund LLC, an early stage venture capital firm aimed at supporting UA technology spinoffs has made its first three investments— two of which are companies founded by BIO5 members. Codelucida, co-founded by BIO5's Dr. Bane Vasic, and Regulonix, founded by BIO5 members Dr. Rajesh Khanna and Dr. Vijay Gokhale.
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The UA received a $1.1 million grant to study the biology underlying the connection between type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. BIO5 member Dr. Yann Klimentidis is a lead researcher on the study, which will utilize publicly available health and genetic information from databases across the world, covering at least 650,000 people.
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Recently there has been debate over whether or not the diabetes — specifically, type 2 — can be “reversed.” According to BIO5's Dr. Yann Klimentidis, assistant professor at the UA College of Public Health, this area of research is still in its infancy but, one day, prevention and treatment measures for type 2 diabetes could eventually be more precise, based on an individual’s genetic profile.
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In her metagenomics research, BIO5 Institute Fellow and Assistant Professor of Biosystems Engineering, Dr. Bonnie Hurwitz, studies how microorganisms live symbiotically with humans and protect us from harmful pathogens that cause illness.
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A UA team, headed by Dr. Michael S. Barker, BIO5 member and assistant professor and director of bioinformatics in the UA Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, has found that polyploidy, the duplication of whole genomes, has occurred many times during the evolution of insects, the most diverse group of animals.
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The recent revolution in artificial intelligence won’t be spawning computers hell-bent on doing in the human race. Instead, artificial intelligence, or AI, will be working with us and not against us, in what BIO5's Mihai Surdeanu, UA associate professor of computer science, terms “intelligence augmentation,” or IA.
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Dr. Sudha Ram, BIO5 member and UA professor in the Eller College, believes her preliminary study may have found a better way to predict which freshmen will drop out. The research will help to increase retention rates for universities.
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BIO5 members Dr. Esther Sternberg, and Dr. Perry Skeath, are leading a research team focused on developing the next generation of wearable devices. This technology can keep tabs on a person's health status by measuring biomarkers that indicate how well the body is functioning.
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The I-Squared event included a showcase of several of the top startups, inventions and inventors from across the UA. One of which was Regulonix, a startup aimed at creating non-opioid drugs for chronic pain, invented by Dr. Rajesh Khanna, BIO5 member, Dr. May Khanna, Department of Pharmacology; and Dr. Vijay Gokhale, BIO5 Institute.
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BIO5 Institute's Dr. Jerzy Rozenblit, a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has been named a fellow of the Society for Modeling and Simulation International, which aims to advance "the use of modeling and simulation to solve the real-world problems."
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Researchers in the UA College of Medicine have invented a new class of non-opioid compounds to treat pain. The UA has licensed the compounds to startup Regulonix, co-founded by Vijay Gokhale a research scientist at the BIO5 Institute.

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The BIO5 Institute is home to The KEYS Research Internship, a program that facilitates research internships for 378 Arizona teens in the areas of in bioscience, biomedicine, engineering, environmental health or biostatistics and contribute to ongoing research projects across The University of Arizona.
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UA ecologist and BIO5 member Dr. Tyson Swetnam led an interdisciplinary team of U.S. researchers to discover that mountain forests are better at storing carbon than forests found on flat land.
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Arizona Public Media's "Arizona Science" podcast hosts BIO5 member Dr. Sudha Ram who talks about harnessing big data from peoples' digital footprints, and how extracting that data has potential to drastically change our healthcare.
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Enormous amounts of real-time data are generated each day as people use mobile devices and apps like Twitter. BIO5's Dr. Sudha Ram’s research focuses on extracting health signals from this fire hose of data using data mining techniques.
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Continuing coverage: The 3,000 Rice Genomes Project is a collaborative, international research program that has sequenced 3,024 rice varieties from 89 countries. "The dataset provides access to millions of genetic markers that can be used to design sustainable crops for the future; that is, ones that are high-yielding and more nutritious, while at the same time, requiring less water, fertilizer and pesticides," said Dr. Rod Wing, director of the Arizona Genomics Institute at the UA and a pioneer in rice genome sequencing.
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BIO5 Institute and iPlant Collaborative have teamed up to host a series of Software Carpentry workshops, offering instruction to researchers, students and educators across Arizona that will help them to hone their computing skills. These skills are necessary to efficiently and reliably process data sets and analyses.
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Dr. Eric Lyons, iPlant Collaborative co-principal investigator and BIO5 member, is one of three scientists using big data management tools to better understand the mysterious inner-workings of RNA molecules.