Researchers Partner With NIH and Google to Develop AI Learning Modules

Data science researchers will build cloud-based learning modules for biomedical research.
Photo by University Relations

Data science researchers will build cloud-based learning modules for biomedical research.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – With supplemental funding from the National Institutes of Health, a team of researchers led by Justin Zhan, professor of data science at the University of Arkansas, will collaborate with NIH and Google software engineers to build cloud-based learning modules for biomedical research.

These modules will help educate biomedical researchers on the ways that artificial intelligence and machine learning, both rapidly becoming important tools in biomedical research, can enhance and streamline data analysis for different types of medical and scientific images.

The new funding, $140,135, has been awarded through the National Institute of General Medical Sciences’ Institutional Development Award Program. Zhan partnered with Kyle Quinn, associate professor of biomedical engineering, and Larry Cornett, director of the Arkansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, which is administering the grant.

In addition to the Arkansas IDeA Network’s support, case studies for the learning modules will be developed with support from the data science and the imaging and spectroscopy cores of the Arkansas Integrative Metabolic Research Center.  

Justin Zhan and Kyle Quinn.

“Big data is transforming health and biomedical science,” Zhan said. “The new technology is rapidly expanding the quantity and variety of imaging modalities, for example, which can tell doctors so much more about their patients. But this transformation has created challenges, particularly with storing and managing massive data sets. Also, while the big data revolution transforms biology and medicine into data-driven sciences, traditional education is responding slowly. Addressing this shortcoming is part of what we’re trying to do.”

The researchers will secure the technical expertise and resources needed to provide training to students and health-care professionals on the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning, as they apply to biomedical research.

Artificial intelligence is the ability of computer systems to perform tasks that have traditionally required human intelligence. One example of artificial intelligence is machine learning, in which algorithms and computations become more accurate than humans at predicting outcomes. This process demands tremendous computational power, more than standard computer clusters can handle.  

The Arkansas researchers will parter with software engineers at Google and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to address the computational requirements of artificial intellegence-driven research through the use of cloud computing. Cloud computing provides access to computing services over the internet, allowing faster and more flexible solutions in biomedical research.

The cloud computing modules developed by Zhan’s team will help researchers understand how artificial intelligence can be used in biomedical sciences to analyze big data. Case studies involving the identification of unique features in large biomedical image sets and the prediction of disease states is expected to help scientists, researchers and clinicians understand how to implement these powerful tools in their work.

About the Arkansas Integrative Metabolic Research Center: Established by a $10.8 million NIH grant in 2021, the Arkansas Integrative Metabolic Research Center focuses on the role of cell and tissue metabolism in disease, development, and repair through research involving advanced imaging, bioenergetics and data science. Quinn is the center director, and Zhan directs center’s Data Science Core. 

About the University of Arkansas: As Arkansas' flagship institution, the U of A provides an internationally competitive education in more than 200 academic programs. Founded in 1871, the U of A contributes more than $2.2 billion to Arkansas’ economy through the teaching of new knowledge and skills, entrepreneurship and job development, discovery through research and creative activity while also providing training for professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the U of A among the few U.S. colleges and universities with the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the U of A among the top public universities in the nation. See how the U of A works to build a better world at Arkansas Research News.


Matt McGowan, assistant director of research communications
University Relations

Justin Zhan, professor, computer science and computer engineering
College of Engineering


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