As an associate professor of software engineering at Florida Gulf Coast University, Anna Koufakou, Ph.D., devotes much of her time during the fall and spring to teaching a variety of undergraduate courses.
When summer rolls around, she focuses on opportunities to conduct research. Through these experiences, Koufakou aims to stay up to date with innovations in her field and bring what she’s learned back to the classroom.
While browsing online for summer research collaborations recently, she discovered the Higher Education Research Experiences (HERE) Faculty Program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).
Intrigued by the cutting-edge research being conducted at ORNL, as well as the lab’s top-tier computing facilities, Koufakou applied and, once accepted, was assigned to the Biomedical Sciences, Engineering, and Computing (BSEC) Group in ORNL’s Computation Sciences and Engineering Division.
Under the mentorship of Gina Tourassi, Ph.D., group leader of BSEC, Koufakou contributed to a project that involves the development of deep learning algorithms to extract information from clinical text. Specifically, Koufakou used neural network models to predict the particular cancer category for a given pathology report. She also examined how to use keywords extracted from publicly available clinical descriptions for different cancer categories, in order to better guide neural networks in their prediction tasks.
“My hope is that my summer research will contribute to a better understanding of the text found in clinical reports, and thus help, in some small way, in the fight against cancer,” she said.
Through her HERE appointment, Koufakou boosted her knowledge of deep learning and clinical data, and became more adept at using cutting-edge tools such as TensorFlow™.
Koufakou particularly appreciated the collaborative nature of her appointment and the chance to learn from Tourassi and other leading scientists at ORNL.
She plans to share that knowledge with her students at Florida Gulf Coast University and make them aware of the research opportunities available at ORNL.
“This kind of internship experience will open up new horizons to these young people,” she said.
As women are a highly underrepresented group in computing, Koufakou intends to promote these opportunities to women students at her institution and beyond.
Koufakou herself hopes to engage in similar research collaborations at ORNL in the future.
“This was an amazing opportunity for me to learn and contribute to such a great project and organization,” she said. “I am excited to bring back what I learned to my institution.”
The HERE Faculty program at ORNL is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy.