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March 2023 QCB Newsletter

e-Newsletter Volume 3 Issue 3 | March 2023

Department of Quantitative and Computational Biology

This month, graduate and undergraduate students have received their admission letters. The QCB Department welcomed admitted Ph.D. students to a campus visit this month. I encourage admitted students to contact current students and recent alumni. A good tool for this is our web presence, our department website. I also want to introduce the new Pennell lab website and my own lab's new website.

As QCB chair, I care a great deal about everyone in the department. To get feedback, I recently held Town Halls for students, one for undergraduate students and one for graduate students. I came away from these open forums with many new ideas. I want to thank both student groups for organizing and forming such impressive communities.

In my role as a professor, I really enjoy co-teaching with Professor Jazlyn Mooney this semester the QBIO introductory course. Our Dean, Amber Miller, taught a fascinating guest lecture in our course this month where she asked the question ‘How do we know what we know?’ and where she connected quantitative and computational biology with AI.

AI is exactly what our students are asking to learn more about. Students in our department have the skills and background for doing this right. We will collaborate with the Viterbi School of Engineering to connect AI and biology in the QBIO major. And we can already do this based on the courses required in this major – AI and biology is in QBIO!

Remo Rohs, Ph.D.

Department Chair

QCB Faculty

Dr. Steve Kay, QCB Core Faculty Member, will receive the 2023 Associates Award for Creativity in Research and Scholarship at the 42nd Annual Academic Honors Convocation. Dr. Kay is one of only two faculty members chosen for this award -- this is the highest honor that the university bestows upon its members for distinguished intellectual achievements. Congratulations, Steve!

Dr. Simon Tavaré, QCB Professor Emeritus, celebrated his 70th birthday together with the 5th anniversary of the Herbert and Florence Irvine Institute for Cancer Dynamics, which he founded at Columbia University. Dr. Michael Waterman, QCB Professor Emeritus, represented our department at this symposium event and delivered opening remarks. Happy Birthday, Simon!

President Carol Folt recognized in her State of the University address the faculty who were inducted this year into academies and prestigious societies -- in the Dornsife faculty, one faculty member was included, Dr. Remo Rohs for his election as AAAS Fellow (see the Dornsife announcement here).

Dr. Yan Liu, QCB Joint Faculty Member from the Computer Science Department in the Viterbi School of Engineering, worked with clinical faculty to develop the "perfect stitch" for robotic surgery using AI. The reason for Dr. Liu's work on this problem was the cancer diagnosis of her father and her desire to help with her computational skills.

QBB Graduate Students

Dr. Jie Ren, a 2017 graduate from Dr. Fengzhu Sun's lab currently at Google Brain, was selected as one of the top 80 AI Chinese Young Female Scholars worldwide by Baidu Scholar on March 8th, International Women's Day (see article, in Chinese, here). She was also chosen as one of the top 50 Young Chinese AI Interdisciplinary Scholars in 2022 by Baidu Scholar (see article, in Chinese, here).

Several Rohs Lab alumni were recently promoted or found new positions in academia. Dr. Ana Carolina Dantas Machado (left) was promoted to Assistant Project Scientist at UCSD. Dr. Jared Sagendorf (center) starts a new position as Academic Coordinator at UCSF. Dr. Satyanarayan Rao (right) starts a position as Assistant Professor at the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee.

Jordy Lam, from the Katritch lab, published a Nature Communications paper on a new computationally driven approach to determining structures of transient GPCR-arrestin complexes in living cells. As a co-first author, Jordy led the molecular modeling and dynamics studies, based on experimental data from a Leipzig University collaborator. Read the paper here.

QBIO Undergraduates

Dean Amber Miller taught a guest lecture in Dr. Mooney's and Dr. Rohs' QBIO 105 "Introduction to Quantitative Biology" class. Inspired by AI and the recent talk about ChatGPT, her lecture culminated in asking the question "How do we know what we know" and the challenge for QBIO students to find a solution to this question based on their quantitative skill set in computing and AI.

This photo was shown to President Biden at the White House when he was informed about the QBIO major by QCB Joint Faculty Member Dr. Jerry Lee from the Ellison Institute. Dr. Lee introduced here the students of Dr. Rohs' and Dr. Mooney's QBIO 105 class to the Cancer Moonshot and APOLLO data.

QCB Post Docs

The BBC spoke with QCB Postdoc Dr. Tina Lasasi from the Doc Edge and Jazlyn Mooney Labs for the article titled, "Why don't humans have fur?" Find the article here.

Upcoming Events & Seminars

April 11th: Seminar by Kin Fai Au, University of Michigan Medical School.

April 13th: Seminar by Aaron Quinlan, University of Utah.

April 20th: Seminar by David Conti, Keck School of Medicine of USC.

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