Bioengineering-computer science research team receives machine-learning grant

A Polytechnic Institute of NYU multidisciplinary research team was recently awarded a $15,000 continuation grant by the Computing Research Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research (CRA-W).

The team is working with machine-learning algorithms (a type of artificial intelligence similar to data mining) to design a protein with therapeutic applications in human disease and birth defects.

Drs. Phyllis Frankl and Lisa Hellerstein provide the computational and machine-learning expertise for the project and Dr. Jin K. Montclare contributes her specialized experience in experimental protein design.


Wendy Hom, a junior in the biomolecular science program, and Rebecca Reich, a senior majoring in computer engineering, are also on the team.

“This is an investigation to design a new protein, but also an investigation of machine-learning techniques that can reduce the time and cost involved in artificial protein design,” said Dr. Montclare. “Designing a new protein involves synthesizing information about thousands of protein variants; machine learning offers a way to make that process more efficient.”

Dr. Montclare added that “the investigation is also a tremendous opportunity for the students to see the inner-workings of a long-term research project and to be an integral part of research with real-world impact.”

CRA-W designed the grant that supports the project to engage women undergraduates in computer science more fully in the research process by allowing them to investigate applications of computer science to other areas in which they may have an interest. It also serves as a catalyst to form new multidisciplinary partnerships with cyber-infrastructure expertise.