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UT Arlington big data team wins $600,000 NSF grant to build interactive gene expression database

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

News Topics: biology, engineering, faculty, genetics, innovation, research, science

A UT Arlington computer science and engineering professor with an expertise in big data and bioinformatics has won a three-year National Science Foundation grant worth more than $600,000 to develop an interactive database of gene expressions of the fruit fly.

Heng Huang

Heng Huang, an associate professor, will lead the project with professor Chris Ding, also of the UT Arlington Computer Science and Engineering department. Scientists are compiling and studying data related to the insects because a large number of genes involved in fruit fly development are commonly found in humans and other species.

Research efforts into the spatial and temporal characteristics of fruit fly gene expression images have been at the leading edge of scientific investigations into the fundamental principles of different species development, the UT Arlington team wrote.

“We’re building a system through which the computer will recognize what happens in these fruit fly genes and how the genes then interact with each other,” Huang said. “Because so many of the genes involved in fruit fly development are found in humans and other species, finding out what these expressions are and how they work with each other is highly important.”

The project is expected to yield methods of analyzing data that will aid in biomedical science and engineering, systems biology, clinical pathology, oncology and pharmaceuticals.

“We are delighted that Dr. Huang and Dr. Ding have received this highly competitive grant to lead the way in analyzing big data as it relates to gene expression and as it informs our broader understanding of health and the human condition,” said Khosrow Behbehani, dean of the UT Arlington College of Engineering. “Our team’s work will no doubt lead to advances in biology, pathology and pharmaceuticals, among other areas.”

Huang received two NSF grants in 2013 worth more than $1.6 million focused on big data and medical records. He is a major player on a third grant worth $1 million through which UT Arlington researchers are developing a smart rehabilitation program.

About UT Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution and the second largest institution in The University of Texas System. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UT Arlington as the seventh fastest-growing public research university in 2013. U.S. News & World Report ranks UT Arlington fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more. Follow #UTAdna on Twitter. 

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The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.