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2020-2021 Biomedical Data Science Innovation Lab: Challenges in Brain Analytics and Data Integration

by: Hannah Rishel, Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Biomedical Data Science Innovation Lab

The Foundations of Biomedical Data Science at the University of Virginia hosted its fifth annual Biomedical Data Science Innovation Lab (BDSIL): Challenges in Brain Analytics and Data Integration on June 21-25, 2021. The BDSIL is an intensive program lead by its Director Jack Van Horn and Research Program Officer, Jeana Kamdar. The program is partially sponsored by iTHRIV and NIH Grant #R25GM139080 that has virtual and in-person components designed to foster the development of multidisciplinary teams.


This year 26 competitively-selected early-career biomedical and data science researchers with experience in a range of biomedical and quantitative sciences participated in the BDSIL to tackle the complex challenges that make-up the many facets of brain research. In addition, a team of chosen, experienced mentors shared their wisdom and insight to support participants throughout the workshop. Mentors met with teams throughout the event to provide helpful feedback, guidance, and direction to the projects that were formed

Leading up to the 5-day Innovation Lab, participants completed an academic year-long series of engaging “microlabs” that examined the neurological research domain, evaluated potential data science solutions to issues, and fostered creative thinking. Further, participants engaged in our weekly live Seminar Series that featured lectures presented by guest neuroscientists from across the country. There were a diverse range of topics including Data Structure, Disease Risk, GXE, and Causal Modeling, Big Neuroscience, Data Sharing & Predictive Health Analytics, and Investigating Mechanisms of Exercise-Induced Neuroplasticity in Cog-Motor Systems in Parkinson’s Disease, among others. All of our past Seminar Series recordings can be found on The Foundations of Biomedical Data Science YouTube Channel.

The 2021 Biomedical Data Science Innovation Lab 5-day event was fully virtual due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Though there was a physical barrier between participants, the collaboration towards the development of novel or significantly adapted models, methods, and approaches for overcoming challenges within brain analytics and neuroscience could not have been stronger! “The best part was meeting all the incredibly smart and motivated participants, each bringing ideas and different expertise to the table” said participant Ignacio Fernandez Mata of the Cleveland Clinic. Mentor Chongzhi Zang of the University of Virginia added “It is a really exciting experience to get to know a lot of peers, colleagues working on different backgrounds and working on these common interesting topics.” Participants formed integrative teams and worked together throughout the program to develop pilot projects for addressing their selected topics within the neurological domain. “I was really amazed to see how quickly they went from the very initial idea to a very strong proposals here it is very interesting and amazing experience for me” said Zang. Five interdisciplinary teams were formed compromising of 3-11 participants. We are looking forward to seeing how the diverse range of project topics take shape in the coming months!


In the coming weeks, teams formed at the BDSIL will continue to work together to collectively develop and submit grant proposals and/or publications through the NIH and NSF funding opportunities highlighted at the end of the workshop. The BDSIL cannot wait to see the wonderful research and relationships that will continue to manifest post lab!

2021-2022 Biomedical Data Science Innovation Lab: Ethical Challenges of AI in Biomedicine


Applications are open for the 2021-2022 Biomedical Data Science Innovation Lab: Ethical Challenges of AI in Biomedicine! This event will take place in-person on June 13-17, 2022 at Boar’s Head Resort in historic Charlottesville, Virginia. This facilitated and mentored workshop will create multidisciplinary teams that tackle the challenges of ethically working with data types in support of AI systems and how AI might be made ethical against best practices recommendations. The collaborations formed during the next BDSIL will result in new peer-reviewed publications or NIH/NSF grant proposals. There will be 4 mandatory virtual microlabs in addition to the in-person workshop in June: October 1, April 8, May 13, June 3. Applications are due July 30, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. Apply today!


Jasper wants you to know how cool his BDSIL bag is

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