Data Science Students Publish Article in Research Journal
By Emily Christiansen
UHD undergrads Vi Ly and Shawn Olichwier and graduate student John Henderson published an article in Nucleic Acids Research, a peer- reviewed science journal, based on their bioinformatics research with UHD faculty member Dr. Benjamin Soibam.
This was the first published article for Ly and Olichwier, a notable feat for undergraduate students. Getting an article in a peer reviewed research journal is a way for scholars to be recognized by professionals in their field.
Nucleic Acids Research is one of the top ranked journals in the biochemistry and molecular biology field. It also has a high impact factor of 11.56, which is an index showing the yearly average of citations for a journal.
Ly and Olichwier were part of the first cohort of UHD's newly formed Data Science program. Dr. Soibam, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, invited them to join this year-long project in Fall 2018. The team met on Fridays to coordinate their work since the project was in addition to their heavy course load.
Ly enjoyed working with his research team and explained his and Olichwier’s role.
“We mostly worked on the traditional machine learning part of the project and John worked on the deep learning side,” Ly said. “It felt great to be in this research team because we communicated openly with each other on the tasks so that the workflow moved very quickly.”
At the end of their first semester of research, the team presented at several conferences before submitting their draft for peer review to Nucleic Acids Research.
Olichwier said the team had to rigorously retest their findings before publication.
“The process took a lot longer than expected,” he explained. “With a technical paper, our findings needed to be verified. Vi and I were tasked this semester with rerunning all of our old tests on new data to ensure they worked properly; that they were not just a fluke. We also needed to recreate our old findings, achieving the same accuracy. The revision process saw our paper go through quite a few revisions before the final draft was accepted.”
After the second semester of retesting and revision, the team’s article was published in the prestigious journal.
The students recognize that having their work in a peer reviewed journal is a significant achievement.
“Publishing a scientific paper is quite an amazing experience for undergraduate students like us,” Ly said.
As a result of their hard work, Ly has been accepted into the Ph.D. program at University of Texas Health Science Center in Biostatistics and Data Science and Olichwier will do a summer research internship in data science and machine learning at New York University.
Dr. Soibam said he was proud of the team’s accomplishment.
“This is an immense achievement by the students to publish in such a high profile journal,” he said. “I had the initial idea of this project, but the final product was a result of long hours of hard work in the lab by the students. They have shown that UHD Gators have the gator grit to conduct high quality research.”
Ly is grateful for the support he received at UHD.
“I want to use this chance to thanks Dr. Soibam for all his mentorship and knowledge,” Ly said. “I also want to thank Scholars Academy for all the STEM promotion toward young college students so we have the inspiration to dig deeper in the field of STEM research and pursuing higher education.”
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD)—the second largest university in Houston—has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974.
As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive four-year university led by Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz. Annually, UHD educates more than 14,000 students; boasts over 50,000 alumni and offers 44 bachelor’s and eight master’s degree programs within five colleges (Marilyn Davies College of Business; Humanities & Social Sciences; Public Service, Sciences & Technology; and University College). In 2018, UHD grew its First Time in College student population by 11 percent and transfer students by 14 percent.
UHD has the most affordable tuition among four-year universities in Houston. It also is ranked among 15 U.S. universities with lowest net price to students (according to the U.S. Department of Education). The University is noted nationally as both a Hispanic-Serving Institution and a Minority-Serving Institution. For more on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit www.uhd.edu.