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CBQB hosts first annual research day

Jie Liang, director of the CBQB and Richard and Loan Hill professor

In one of the first in-person scientific conferences held on campus in over a year, UIC’s Center for Bioinformatics and Quantitative Biology (CBQB) hosted its first annual Research Day on Nov. 19.

The conference brought together students and researchers from across the university to discuss bioinformatics and quantitative biology. The event had a large turnout, with more than 75 attendees, 12 oral presentations and 38 poster presentations from PhD, master’s, and undergraduate students, along with postdoctoral students and research staff

Participants in this year’s event included students from the colleges of engineering, liberal arts and sciences, medicine, nursing, and pharmacy. The keynote speech was given by Huan-Xiang Zhou, professor and LAS endowed chair in the Natural Sciences, department of chemistry and physics, and the opening remarks were provided by Joanna Groden, vice chancellor for research at UIC.

Presentation topics included the effect of steroids on maternal gut microbiomes, the identification of cancer driver mutations, a model of ovarian follicle development, and coarse-grain models of coronavirus spike proteins and ACE2 receptors. There were also a number of presentations on algorithm development and studies of emerging areas such as single-cell analysis, network inference, phase separation in cells, and protein dynamics.

Jie Liang, director of the CBQB and Richard and Loan Hill professor, said the event was a great showcase for all the exciting work happening in computational modeling, quantitative biology, and bioinformatics across the whole campus.

“It was great for people to realize these exciting research activities and potential new opportunities exist in different colleges and to know the that folks who are doing these studies on campus,” Liang said. “There are so many applications for these techniques to solve biological problems, and these events are a great way to start up new relationships and working partnerships, as well.”

Organizers presented PhD student Kenneth Tsui from Associate Professor Ao Ma’s lab with the Best Oral Presentation award for his presentation titled “A Structural Mechano-Chemical Model of Microtubule Seeded Nucleation.” PhD student Moein Naderi from Assistant Professor Zhangli Peng’s lab took home the Best Poster Presentation award for his work titled “Computational Modeling of Elasto-Inertial Focusing of Particles.” Both awards were sponsored by the Office of the Vice-Chancellor of Research.

Liang said the event was a big hit among students who attended and presented, with many reaching out to him after the event to share how excited they were to be able to present their best research.

“This is a great opportunity for our students as well,” Liang said. “They get to practice presenting fairly complicated work to a general audience. This is a really important skill for them because they will need to be able to convey their accomplishments and the significance of their work once they graduate, so they are well prepared to move onto new jobs and careers.”

The CBQB plans to host an annual research day each academic year in the future.