Systems Engineering Professor to Explore Cancer Research in India
April 1, 2014
Dr. Mathukumalli Vidyasagar has received a fellowship designed to boost science research in India through visiting scholars.
Dr. Mathukumalli Vidyasagar, the Cecil H. and Ida Green Chair in Systems Biology Science, is an inaugural recipient of a fellowship designed to boost science research in India by providing opportunities for eminent overseas scientists to conduct research in the country.
The Jawaharlal Nehru Science Fellowship, named after India’s first prime minister, is bestowed on accomplished scientists who are Fellows of the Royal Society or members of the U.S. or French national academies of science or their equivalents. The scientists will work part time in an Indian laboratory of their choice for a total of 12 months, spread over three years.
“I feel honored to be in the first group,” said Vidyasagar a professor of systems engineering in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science. “The government of India set the bar really high.”
Vidyasagar is an internationally known expert in control and system theory who, in 2012, was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, the oldest continuously operating scientific society in the world. He is known for contributions to various aspects of control and system theory, robotics, statistical learning theory and computational biology.
“I feel honored to be in the first group. The government of India set the bar really high.”
Two of his books, co-authored with Dr. Mark W. Spong, dean of the Jonsson School, are among the most popular textbooks on robot dynamics and control.
Vidyasagar’s current research at UT Dallas, conducted in collaboration with faculty members from UT Southwestern Medical Center, makes use of his expertise in statistics and computational biology to advance personalized therapy in cancer. His team invented new algorithms and applied them to lung, ovarian and endometrial cancer to identify biomarkers that predict which patients will respond to a specific therapy.
These algorithms solve two specific problems in cancer biology: identifying the most informative features of a cancer data set and reverse-engineering genome-wide interaction networks.
Vidyasagar, a founder of what has become the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Life Sciences Community, is a proponent of engineers' connecting their expertise with the life sciences community. He has chosen the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Hyderabad to conduct similar research.
“Targeted cancer treatments based on a person's genetic makeup, often called personalized medicine, is just one example where persons with a traditional engineering training and mindset have the potential to make quite fundamental contributions to the life sciences,” he said. “The IITs are the most prestigious academic institutions in India and a perfect place to make these types of contributions.”