Interview | 5 Questions with the IDEaS Leadership Team

E. coli. cytochrome c maturation system I and the predictions of protein quaternary structures by AF2complex.

Jeffrey Skolnick, professor and Mary and Maisie Gibson Chair in the School of Biological Sciences

5 Questions with the IDEaS Leadership Team | Featuring Regents’ Professor Jeffrey Skolnick


This week we introduce Regents’ Professor Jeffrey Skolnick, Mary and Maisie Gibson Chair& GRA Eminent Scholar in Computational Systems Biology in the Georgia Tech School of Biological Sciences. Skolnick is also Director of the Center for the Study of Systems Biology and the Thrust Lead for Precision Medicine and Drug Discovery at the Institute for Data Engineering and Science (IDEaS).

1. What is your field of expertise and what questions, or challenges sparked your current research? (Please include at what point in your life you first became interested in this area within your response.)

My field of expertise is computational biology which the goal of understanding the design principles of living systems in general and humans in particular  and then to apply this understanding to improve the state of the art of precision medicine and drug discovery. I got into biology by accident. We were doing a series of simulations of polymers and found that the simulations mimicked the properties of proteins. I then realized we could say something original about this important biological system and so I immediately changed fields. Serendipity is very important.

2. How does the field of Data Science and Engineering intersect with/impact/enhance your research?

Learning how cells work relies on big data – what are the states of the literally thousands of different types of molecules (there are 37 trillion cells in a human and each contains millions of molecules). On can then train ML methods to obtain the collective properties of this sea of interacting molecules. Many body interactions are very important determining this behavior- what dictates the cause of a given disease and how can one fix it? Without this field, my research would be impossible.

3. Why is the field of Data Science and Engineering important to the development of Georgia Tech’s broader research strategy?

Data Science and Engineering will ultimately be at the core of all fields of human endeavor. Whether it be weather prediction, health analytics, logistics, or social behavior they do or will rely on the tools of Data Science and Engineering.

4. What are the global and social benefits of the research you and your team conduct?

Our goal is to develop diagnostics and treatments for intractable diseases. These include cancers, e.g. Ovarian cancer which is often diagnosed when it is hard to treat and pain, where we seek to develop non addictive pain relievers. Hopefully our work will help impact these complex problems.

5. What are your plans on engaging a wider GT faculty pool with IDEaS research?

David Sherill and I are planning a workshops to identify those emerging or about to emerge areas where tech can be the leader in the field. We also plan a workshop to identify current opportunities where Tech can play a major role in the advancement of existing fields.

Learn More About the Team’s Work Here:

 Regents’ Professor Jeffrey Skolnick, Mary and Maisie Gibson Chair& GRA Eminent Scholar

 Regents’ Professor Jeffrey Skolnick, Mary and Maisie Gibson Chair& GRA Eminent Scholar 

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