The Simons Foundation awarded Dr. Albert Keung the 2022 Pivot Fellowship. Launched this year, the Pivot Fellowship program supports researchers who have a strong track record of success and achievement in their current field, as well as a deep interest, curiosity and drive to make contributions to a new discipline. The fellowship enables today’s brightest minds to apply their talent and expertise to a new area of research, consisting of one training year where the fellow will be embedded in a lab of a mentor to learn the new discipline and its culture.
Through the Pivot Fellowship, Professor Keung will immerse himself in the field of interpretable machine learning through the pioneering expertise and mentorship of Dr. Cynthia Rudin. Specifically, he will focus on key approaches to deal with sparsity of representation, especially in the context of the immense diversity of human health and biology, and how interpretable machine learning methods can promote responsible and equitable models in the face of this challenge. Related, interpretable methods could provide insights into biological function rather than just establish correlations, a common challenge in data intensive biological research. Supporting these efforts will be the development of new approaches to interface iterative experimental design cycles with machine learning to explore parameter spaces both native and non-native to biology. A central goal of the fellowship will also be to develop strategies in which molecular and biological concepts can be fused with disparate macroscale data types and applied to challenges facing society including health care, clinical outcomes, drug discovery, and epidemiology.
Professor Keung is an associate professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, a University Faculty Scholar, and Goodnight Early Career Innovator. His group applies synthetic biology and stem cell engineering approaches in three focus areas. His current work includes engineering human stem cell models to study neuroepigenetic mechanisms of addiction and neurodevelopmental disorders with a focus on Angelman Syndrome, developing high throughput synthetic biology platforms to study epigenetics and dynamic information transmission through chromatin, and creating scalable and highly dense DNA-based information storage systems. A unifying conceptual framework within the Keung group is discovering and harnessing the diverse mechanisms by which biological information is stored, accessed, and transmitted beyond the genetic sequence. Professor Keung trained at Stanford University (B.S. chemical engineering), UC Berkeley (Ph.D. chemical engineering), and MIT/Boston University (postdoc, bioengineering). The collective work of those in the Keung group have been recognized by the NSF CAREER award, ACS Synthetic Biology Young Investigator Award, NIH Avenir Award, and the Cure Angelman Syndrome Innovation Award.