Grad program graduates

Kanchan Hole (PSM ’18, Bio)
Bioinformatics serves as stepping stone for career success

Kanchan Hole’s journey in the United States started four years ago when she enrolled in the CST’s Professional Science Master’s (PSM) in bioinformatics, which covers
computational science and systems biology and blends classroom knowledge, practical application and internship opportunities.

Having trained as a registered pharmacist in India, Hole wanted to learn more about the integration of pharmaceutical sciences and computational biology. She immediately felt right at home at Temple. “This program allowed me to work on various research projects,” Hole said, “including one facilitated by Deanne Taylor, director of bioinformatics in the Department of Biomedical and Health Informatics at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and one of the PSM’s external advisors.”

Later, in the summer of 2017, after completing her first year in the bioinformatics program, Hole was accepted into a co-op program in computational and systems biology at Janssen Pharmaceuticals in Spring House, Pa. “This co-op became the first step of my career in computational sciences using my bioinformatics training,” explained Hole, who was attracted to the PSM program because of its real-world research requirement.

“My co-op gave me a first-hand experience of the working culture of the pharma industry and was an excellent opportunity to strengthen both my credentials and my knowledge in applied bioinformatics,” she said. Hole’s capstone research project at Janssen further developed her passion for working with cross-functional teams as she developed and applied cutting-edge approaches to processing, analyzing, annotating and interpreting genomic data. “I learned important skills from coursework, research projects and internship experience, but the most impactful training I received was in next generation sequencing and data analysis,” Hole said.

After graduation, Hole started her first job at Foundation Medicine in Cambridge, Mass., as a clinical bioinformatics analyst, where she still works today. “The PSM in bioinformatics at Temple,” recalled Hole, “was pivotal and a true stepping-stone in meeting my career goals.”

-Amanda Morrison


Jim Berglund (PhD ’19, EES)
Hydrology research in Montana

Four years after the Department of Earth & Environmental Science admitted its first three geoscience doctoral candidates, Jim Berglund became the department’s first PhD graduate. Berglund’s doctoral research explored the fluctuating hydrological characteristics of karst formations in central Pennsylvania through the thermal and geochemical monitoring and modeling of springs. “Rare earth elements act like fingerprints to let us know where the water has been and what interacted with it by the time it reaches the spring,” said Berglund, who at Temple authored or co-authored four research articles. “Those indicators can vary widely following a storm as rainwater often flows into sinkholes that feed these springs.”

In December, the popular teaching assistant received the Rick Valentino Outstanding TA Award, which is given only occasionally. His students appreciated his inclusive teaching style, carefully crafted lectures and puns. Berglund also co-founded TU’s Sigma Gamma Epsilon Honor Society, which provides career information to earth and environmental science students.

“I enjoy teaching because I have to learn the material more and get to relive, for example, the feeling of falling in love with geology,” said Berglund. Berglund is now a non-teaching assistant professor of hydrology at Montana Tech in Butte. A licensed drone pilot, one of his research projects will involve using heat-sensing drones to gauge groundwater movements in the Yellowstone Basin.

Referring to his advisor, Weeks Chair of Environmental Geology Laura Toran, Berglund said, “She was an amazing PI in terms of getting me more experience in developing research questions, writing, publishing, attending conferences, networking with potential future collaborators and teaching. My time here at Temple has been very valuable.”

-Bruce E. Beans


Liang Du (PhD ’15, CIS)
Leading Microsoft’s workplace safety product

Liang Du, a principal applied scientist manager with Microsoft, is leading a team of researchers that have developed a new artificial intelligence (AI) product that utilizes surveillance cameras and computers to enhance workplace safety.

According to Du, the product drew the praise of Microsoft founder Bill Gates. “He said, ’The work is amazing’,” recalls Du. “To work on something that you feel is important, and then to have the founder of this great company praise your work, was magical.”

While earning his doctorate in computer science under his advisor, Associate Professor Haibin Ling, Du focused on computer vision. “Any artificial intelligence system needs computer vision to allow computers to make sense of the visual, physical world, to know what is happening there, who is there and what objects are there,” explains Du.

Du credits his work with Ling for elevating his Temple experience. “The research we were doing was state of the art. We published our research on the best facial recognition system in the world at that time,” says Du. “That experience helped me get my Microsoft job and gave me the foundation to succeed with the workplace safety project I’m still working on.”

The AI project utilizes a new concept that combines the analytical power of both Microsoft’s Cloud and local computers to interpret, in real time, what surveillance cameras see. For example, if the cameras detect a top-heavy jackhammer precariously leaning against a workbench, the system can use facial recognition to immediately notify, via smartphone, a worker in the room. Similarly, if a heart surgery patient is detected walking too far in a hospital hallway, a nurse would be alerted, and informed where the nearest wheelchair for the
patient is located.

“We’re working on something that may change the way people work,” says Du. “Many disasters or accidents will be prevented, or at least be mitigated, with this kind of system, which can be installed anywhere.”

-Bruce E. Beans