Three ECE ILLINOIS and CSL faculty members have received grants from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative DAF, an advised fund of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Assistant Professor Lav R Varshney, Assistant Professor Idoia Ochoa-Alvarez, and Professor Olgica Milenkovic, Donald Biggar Willet Scholar, submitted proposals that were among 85 projects selected to support the Human Cell Atlas, a global effort to map every type of cell in the healthy human body as a resource for studies of health and disease. The grants total $15 million over one year.
Projects are focused on developing open computational tools, algorithms, visualizations, and benchmark datasets to enable researchers around the globe to work with the large variety of molecular and imaging data being generated by scientists working on the Human Cell Atlas. The grantees will also collaborate with each other, and with CZI’s scientists and software engineers, to maximize the impact of the new tools and technologies.
“I am thrilled to welcome this distinguished group of grantees to the CZI family, and I am excited about how they will support the ambitious Human Cell Atlas effort,” said Priscilla Chan, MD, co-founder of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. “Working together and with our team of scientists and engineers, these partners will create new ways for scientists to use information about healthy and diseased cells. Their efforts will help to accelerate progress toward our goal of curing, preventing, or managing all diseases by the end of the century.”
Professor Olgica Milenkovic will research the influence of different quantization methods on the quality of visualization and downstream processing of omics data, with “omics” referring to a field in biology ending in -omics (genomics, metabolomics, etc.). In particular, her research in the theme, “Quantization and Compressive Learning Methods for Omics Data,” aims to enable cost-efficient archival storage and fast data visualization and transfer, as well as determine how quantization influences the speed and accuracy of data processing pipelines when compared to unquantized data. Milenkovic is also affiliated with the CSL and the Beckman Institute.
Assistant Professor Idoia Ochoa’s project, also in the “Quantization and Compressive Learning Methods for Omics Data” theme, will seek to develop an integrated information storage, visualization and shared machine learning pipeline that operates on various forms of lossless and lossy (quantized) compressive omics data, while producing results matching those obtained from uncompressed data. Ochoa is also affiliated with the CSL.
Working in the “Compression of Structural, Cartographic, and Multimodal Cell Data” theme, Assistant Professor Lav Varshney will design data compression algorithms that can handle a putative overload of data, such as an atlas of trillions of human cells. These algorithms will support the eventual end-use of the atlas, whether in allowing in-place execution of network analysis algorithms, taking advantage of human psychophysics for visualization, or having representations that support machine learning approaches, such as unsupervised learning or human-interpretable hierarchical concept learning. Varshney is also affiliated with the CSL and the Beckman Institute.
This new funding round marks the third set of projects that CZI is funding in support of the Human Cell Atlas. Last year, CZI announced funding and engineering support to build a Data Coordination Platform, and funding for 38 pilot projects to help new technologies, best practices, and data analysis techniques.