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Alexander von Humboldt Professorship for Artificial Intelligence 2022

Sayan Mukherjee

The mathematician, statistician and computer scientist Sayan Mukherjee has produced crucial work in the still young field of topological data analysis through which imaging methods can be improved and predictions made about diseases. In Leipzig, Mukherjee’s expertise in the evaluation of biological data is set to open up new avenues in precision medicine.

  • Nominating University: University of Leipzig in conjunction with the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences
Portrait Sayan Mukherjee
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Mathematical statistics

Human DNA is composed of three billions of base pairs which, in some cases in groups and combinations, can play a role in the development of various diseases. At the same time, gender, age, heart rate, blood pressure and weight can be linked to a person’s physical condition.
In order to be able to record, evaluate and, for example, make and check hypotheses about causal connections in multidimensional data like these, innovative statistical computational methods are required. Sayan Mukherjee has made outstanding contributions to the continued mathematical development of statistical evaluation methods involving high-dimensional data which are being used in computer science, imaging and particularly on an interdisciplinary basis in computational biology with the aim of advancing medicine.

Mukherjee was, for instance, involved in developing Gene Set Enrichment Analysis (GSEA), a statistical evaluation method for the human genome through which the biological function of entire groups of genes and their possible role in the formation of cancers is determined – work for which he gained an international reputation.
His special field is topological data analysis which visualises high-dimensional data, making it possible to infer individual datasets from the geometric representation. Further developments in this field have led to improvements in medical imaging, allowing predictions to be made about the development of certain diseases. He has also managed to improve statistical error control in the field of AI.

In Leipzig, Sayan Mukherjee will continue his fundamental research in mathematical statistics at the Center for Scalable Data Analytics at the University of Leipzig and the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences. He will also be appointed as director of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Bioinformatics (IZBI). His fundamental research on data analysis and its representation seeks to generate new knowledge in the fight against certain diseases in precision medicine.

Sayan Mukherjee has been selected for a Humboldt Professorship and is currently conducting appointment negotiations with the German university that nominated him for the award. If the negotiations end successfully, the award will be granted in 2022.

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Sayan Mukherjee at Duke University

Brief bio

Born in India, Professor Dr Sayan Mukherjee received his academic training in the United States. He completed his doctorate at MIT, Cambridge, United States, in 2001 and initially worked there and at the nearby Broad Institute supported by a Sloan Postdoctoral Fellowship. Since 2004, he has been at Duke University, Durham, United States, becoming a full professor in 2015. As a professor of mathematics, applied statistics and computer science he has always been associated with several departments. In 2011, he spent a year as a visiting researcher in Chicago. He received the International Indian Statistical Association’s Young Researcher Award in 2008 and became a Fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics in 2018. He is also a member of various international scientific associations.