Dec. 6, 2021

Watch the new “Dare to Venture” video to see how Singh blends computer science and biology.

When Mona Singh was in high school, she spent two summers conducting research in an immunology lab at the nearby University of Alabama at Birmingham. Singh was an excellent student, and her family hoped she would follow in her father’s footsteps and become a medical doctor. She was interested in the questions of biology and medicine that the lab pursued, but her heart wasn’t in it. Deep down, she wanted to become a math professor — not a doctor. “To be honest, I don’t know if I understood what being a math professor really meant,” she said. “I just knew I liked math.”

She switched to a biophysics lab, and used the coding skills she’d learned in computer science class to help create an automated collection of data for the lab. “I think that experience planted the seeds for using computer science in molecular biology,” she said. “I really loved the methods of computer science and thinking about things analytically, so it was really exciting to be able to bring what I’m good at to a topic that I thought was really fascinating.”

Today, Singh is a professor of computer science and the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics at Princeton. Her pioneering research is at the center of a multidisciplinary field that began with the sequencing of the human genome and has advanced exponentially with the application of machine learning techniques. “The genome was just a starting point,” Singh said. “Because biology is being transformed by these high-throughput technologies, you really need advanced algorithms to make sense of massive troves of more diverse data types.”

Click here for full story, by Jeff Labrecque.