Innovate For Health welcomes 2020-2022 Data Science Health Innovation Fellows

Innovate For Health welcomes 2020-2022 Data Science Health Innovation Fellows

Oct 26, 2020 | I4H News

Innovate For Health (I4H) is pleased to announce the 2020-2022 Data Science Health Innovation Fellows, who recently began their joint appointments with the Berkeley Institute of Data Science (BIDS) and UCSF’s Bakar Computational Health Sciences Institute (BCHSI).


This year’s cohort includes six outstanding candidates who were chosen from industry and academic data science to participate in this prestigious 2-year fellowship program, which has been designed to profoundly expand the healthcare field with new approaches, innovative technologies, and cutting-edge research.  Their research interests span an impressive variety of domain expertise, from medical imaging to network security, bioinformatics to biophysics, as well as text analysis, and business applications; and their goals include taking advantage of the entrepreneurial training and research opportunities afforded by this unique fellowship. 


According to I4H founding Co-Director Maryam Vareth, who leads BIDS research in the Health and Life Sciences, "This innovation fellowship aims to break down the silos and build bridges between domain experts — clinical, methodological and entrepreneurial — and data scientists right from the start, so that we can properly and effectively use advances in AI to harness the power of UC Health data, and digest its immense amount of information to transform the health and life sciences space.” Vareth's colleagues on the I4H leadership team are Co-Directors Emma Huang (Johnson & Johnson Innovation) and Karla Lindquist (UCSF), who represent the Initiative's three organizing partners.


Akram Bayat, a former postdoc at MIT Media Lab focusing on transforming healthcare with machine learning research, is interested in pursuing an academic faculty position after the fellowship, with intentions to launch her own “AI in Healthcare Technology Transfer” research laboratory.  “I believe the skills I developed during my research at MIT will grow and evolve during this two-year position, and will prepare me to bring unique skills and insights to my future students and my research lab for improving healthcare.” She has a passion for inventing and developing new AI-based technologies, procedures, and systems to address important unmet clinical needs at low incremental cost.


With a strong mathematical background, a track record of research in algorithms and machine learning, as well as hands-on experience with modern big data frameworks, Reza Eghbali hopes to gain experience with biomedical data and eventually pivot his current career path from the software industry to the healthcare industry after the fellowship.  “If one has access to large-scale diverse data, even simple analytical tools can lead to important discoveries.”


Benjamin Lacar studied biochemistry at UCLA, earned a PhD in neuroscience from Yale, and was a postdoctoral researcher at the Salk Institute. He then worked as an applications and bioinformatics scientist at Fluidigm Corporation and was most recently a fellow at Insight Data Science. “I bring a wide range of academic and industry experience, which shape how I apply data science. I’m excited to apply my technical skills towards societal impact during this fellowship. My aim is to work on a project that improves health care of the underserved.” He is keenly interested in the program’s focus on learning from both academic and industry experts, as well as other fellows. 


As a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University, Saeed Seyyedi focused on developing and investigating AI and data science solutions in medical imaging applications, including neural network model to classify breast cancer screening scans and, machine learning and a deep learning models for detection and classification lung cancer nodules in CT scans. “As a computer scientist, I have extensive experience in developing and deploying data science, machine learning and deep learning solutions in healthcare applications including radiology and digital pathology; and with this fellowship, I hope to augment my experience in leading healthcare AI initiatives in academic, clinical and industry environments.”


After completing the 2-year fellowship, Elizabeth Smith, a former data scientist and technical lead at Orbital Insight, plans to start her own company and a new career in the healthcare space.  “I am particularly interested in automated image analysis and intelligent radiology, and UCSF’s Center for Intelligent Imaging computational core provides key resources needed to make quick progress on translational research in that domain." 


Mithra Vankipuram, a multidisciplinary research engineer, has a Computer Science background and holds a Ph.D. in Biomedical Informatics. With over eight years of industry experience, she joins Innovate For Health with expertise in applied research and user-centered product development. She was drawn to the Initiative’s predominantly female leadership team and is particularly interested in the program’s focus on research-backed and business-viable outcomes for the betterment of humanity. “I believe we need more collaboration between academia and industry to develop healthcare solutions that have large-scale, real-world impact. That's why I'm here."


Over the coming months, the new fellows will work with mentors from each of the Initiative's three organizing partners — UC Berkeley, UCSF, and the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson — to develop a research project that will maximize their technical, clinical and translational expertise with data-driven discovery and innovation using vast health datasets and resources currently available. Vareth is excited about where this year's new Fellows will be taking the I4H initiative over the next two years: "Through this process, we are developing the next generation of leaders who will transform healthcare by applying data science to solve unmet needs for patients, providers, institutions, and industry.” 


Faculty affiliated with UC Berkeley and UCSF who are interested in partnering with the new Fellows are invited to respond to the current Call for 2020-2022 “Innovate For Health” Mentors and Collaborators.  Faculty Mentors and Collaborators will work with new I4H Fellows to identify an area of unmet need in healthcare, for which they will design a research project that will deliver novel solutions within the 2-year time frame of their fellowship.  The new Fellows will announce their research projects in May 2021. 



Akram Bayat
UC Berkeley, UCSF
Reza Eghbali
UC Berkeley, UCSF
Ben Lacar
UC Berkeley, UCSF
Saeed Seyyedi
UC Berkeley, UCSF
Elizabeth Smith
UC Berkeley, UCSF
Mithra Vankipuram
Mithra Vankipuram, PhD
UC Berkeley, UCSF


UCSF Bakar Computational health Sciences Institute
BIDS logo
Janssen - Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson
UC Berkeley
Johnson & Johnson Innovation