Lucy Lu Wang, PhD Candidate
PhD Candidate, Department of Biomedical Informatics and Medical Education, University of Washington, Seattle
MS, Applied Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore
BS, Physics, MIT, Cambridge, Mass.
How do I describe informatics to those outside the field
To my friends and family, I tend to describe biomedical informatics as applying data science and analytic methods to biomedical data. I use a variety of statistical and machine learning techniques to extract information from biological and clinical data, with the ultimate goal of improving patient care.
I think medicine has always been of great fascination to me. At one point I thought I would become a physician, but then I worked as an EMT [Emergency Medical Technician] for a while and realized that what I liked about medicine was maybe not the individual patient encounter, but rather trying to improve healthcare as a whole. Subsequently I’ve worked in a variety of medical research labs and on developing medical devices. What I liked best about medical research was data analysis and model building, creating tools for clinicians and researchers to interface with the abundant data that are generated. That’s why informatics is the perfect fit for me because I get to spend a lot of my time doing methods development and building tools for people.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Recently, I spearheaded a proposal to build computational infrastructure here at the University of Washington specifically for students to conduct data science research using the University of Washington Medical Center clinical data records. This was not something that was available to students before, but now, we have been funded by the school to purchase some hardware and create these services for student research. I’m really excited and proud to be involved in that.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I would like to be doing research in a similar environment, so either in academia or in a nonprofit research institute. I’m looking forward to starting new projects, working with other research groups, and building impactful tools.
Who or what are your “key sources” in the informatics field?
I’m thankful for the conferences that exist in our field: the AMIA conferences, the International Conference of Biomedical Ontology, and Bio-Ontologies have all been useful sources of contact with researchers in the field. I also have a really strong advising committee who I’ve been able to go to for advice. That includes my advisor, John Gennari, and the other informaticists, clinicians, and biostatisticians on my committee, who really help me round out and fill in the gaps in my experience and help me find places to look for answers.
What is your favorite AMIA event?
I attended the AMIA 2018 Informatics Summit for the first time this year and really enjoyed it. So, I think that’s probably my new favorite event. And, of course, the AMIA Annual Symposium is a classic. That one’s quite good as well.
Hobbies/Interests outside AMIA
Here in the Pacific Northwest I definitely take advantage of nature. I bike and hike a lot. I also play a lot of Go. It’s a board game, kind of like chess, but more complex. It’s received a lot of press lately, especially in the machine-learning realm, because of AlphaGo. I’m quite involved with the Go community, and I volunteer and teach at the local Seattle Go center.
AMIA is important to me because
I think it’s really important to have a community for the research and work that I do. None of my research would be as valuable and important without a community to give back to and build upon. That’s why AMIA is so important to me, because without AMIA I wouldn’t have a sounding board, I wouldn’t have people to communicate my ideas with and to point out the flaws in my ideas. Those are all extremely important for me.
I am involved with AMIA
I am on the JAMIA student editorial board and I am also the current manager of the JAMIA Journal Club.
It may surprise people to know
I was looking at the software I built over the years, and I think it would surprise people to find out that the first piece of software that I wrote had nothing to do with data analysis or anything like that. It was a tool to help people build crossword puzzles.