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Universität Leipzig: New Humboldt Professorship for AI

Once again this year, the University of Leipzig – this time together with the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Natural Sciences Leipzig – has won Germany’s most highly endowed research award: The expert for artificial intelligence (AI), Prof. Dr. Sayan Mukherjee, will become the new Alexander von Humboldt Professor in 2022. The mathematician, statistician and computer scientist has presented decisive work in the still young field of topological data analysis, among other things, through which imaging methods can be improved. In Leipzig, Mukherjee’s expertise in the evaluation of biological data will open up new avenues in precision medicine.

“I am very pleased that the University of Leipzig has once again successfully recruited an Alexander von Humboldt Professorship – this time together with the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Natural Sciences. Professor Sayan Mukherjee is a sought-after expert in the field of artificial intelligence, especially topological data analysis. I find its interface to medicine very interesting. With his research results, more concrete statements can be made about the development of certain diseases,” says Prof. Dr. Beate Schücking, Rector of the University of Leipzig.

A human DNA consists of three billion base pairs, some of which can be involved in the development of various diseases in groups and combinations. At the same time, gender, age, heartbeat, blood pressure and weight can be associated with a person’s health condition. In order to describe and evaluate multidimensional data such as these and, for example, to be able to establish and test hypotheses about causal connections, innovative statistical calculation methods are required. Sayan Mukherjee has developed outstanding contributions to the mathematical development of statistical evaluation methods of multidimensional data, which are applied in a variety of ways in computer science, imaging and interdisciplinary, especially in the field of computational biology with the aim of medical progress.

New evaluation method of the human genome brings international reputation

For example, Mukherjee was involved in the development of Gene Set Enrichment Analysis (GSEA), a statistical evaluation method of the human genome that determines the biological function of entire gene groups and their possible role in the development of cancers. With this work, he has made a name for himself internationally. His specialty is topological data analysis, in which high-dimensional data is visualized and can be inferred from geometric representation to individual data sets. Mukherjee’s further developments in this field have led to the improvement of medical imaging techniques. He was also able to improve statistical error control for learning algorithms in the field of AI.

Basic research in the fight against diseases

In Leipzig, Prof. Dr. Sayan Mukherjee will continue his basic mathematical-statistical research at the Center for Scalable Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence at the University of Leipzig and at the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Natural Sciences. He will also become director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Bioinformatics (IZBI) at the University of Leipzig. His basic research on data analysis and its presentation is intended to bring new insights into the fight against certain diseases in precision medicine.

Prof. Dr. Sayan Mukherjee has been selected for the Humboldt Professorship and is currently in negotiations with the University of Leipzig and the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Natural Sciences, which have jointly nominated him for the prize. If these are successfully completed, the prize will be awarded in 2022.

To the person

Prof. Dr. Sayan Mukherjee, born in India, received his academic training in the USA. In 2001 he received his doctorate from MIT, Cambridge, USA, and initially stayed there and at the nearby Broad Institute with a Sloan Postdoctoral Fellowship. Since 2004 he has been working at Duke University, Durham, USA; since 2015 as Full Professor. As a professor of mathematics, applied statistics and computer science, he was consistently associated with several departments. In 2011, he spent a year as a visiting scholar in Chicago. In 2008 he received a Young Researcher Award from the International Indian Statistical Association, and since 2018 he has been a Fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics. He is also a member of various international professional societies.

Humboldt Professorships for Leipzig

To date, four Humboldt Professors have conducted research or research at the University of Leipzig: Prof. Dr. Jens Meiler, Prof. Dr. Oskar Hallatschek, Prof. Dr. James Conant and Prof. Dr. Gregory Ralph Crane.

About the Alexander von Humboldt Professorship

The Humboldt Professorship is the internationally highly respected prize, which is also highly endowed in Germany, and is aimed at researchers from abroad. It is awarded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in a rigorous competitive procedure to enable German universities to appoint world-leading researchers working abroad and to offer them internationally competitive conditions for forward-looking research. The prize money of up to five million euros is intended to finance the first five years in Germany.

Source: Press release of the University of Leipzig of 01.07.2021

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