With all the various forms of technologies today creating massive stockpiles of digital information, scientists hope to make better use of it. Digital information ranges from medical records, test results, photographs, videos, body scans, DNA sequences, and other types found in medical and scientific research facilities worldwide. Scientists hope to utilize this information in order to help reveal insights regarding biology and even possibly lead to innovative breakthroughs in science and medical care.
The institute UCLA has formed is called the Institute for Quantitative and Computational Biosciences. A project already five years in the making, UCLA has invested over $50 million altogether in the field of computational biosciences thus far in the project; hiring new staff and making improvements to research facilities.The new facility will bring together researchers and computer experts from UCLA’s medical school and other departments throughout the UCLA campus to collaborate together and make sense of the ever-growing amount of big data available.
The hope behind the project is that in analyzing big data, the findings may help scientists understand how genes interact with the environment to promote good health or cause disease. Big data can help to provide a clearer understanding of which medical treatments work best for specific populations, or perhaps in particular circumstances.
Alexander Hoffmann, Director of the new Institute stated that the research center will provide training for students and faculty members on how to work with large data sets. He also noted that the new institute will help scientists hear about potentially useful sources of data such as the University of California Research eXchange. The University of California Research eXchange has a searchable database of 12 million electronic health records compiled from patients at the five University of California medical centers. Using this information in a meaningful way can shed light on connections which were previously not recognized.
Big data is very plentiful and will continue to grow, but it is also very complex and potentially overwhelming. This is where computer science comes in; “Figuring out how the pieces go together takes computer science.”(Hoffmann) By bringing computer science experts together with scientists and research specialists, the new institute has a much better chance at understanding what may potentially lie in the large amounts of big data.