Brian Cleary


The intersection where computer and data sciences meet biology is where Brian Cleary lives. His work uses machine learning and computer science techniques to harness data that’s been accumulated over decades to study how cells and tissues in the human body work—and how genes express themselves.

Let him explain.

“So we’ll take, for example, a tissue section, and we want to know throughout the tissue, in every cell in the section that we’re imaging, how much of the gene that we are profiling is present in every single cell. Then we look for patterns in a particular cell, and we look to see which cells tend to be located near others.”

That work helps him to better understand the structure and function of the tissue, how it develops, and how diseases might progress within it. Cleary joined BU in the summer of 2022 as an assistant professor in the Faculty of Computing & Data Sciences and a core faculty member in the Bioinformatics Program. There’s a wide range of real-world applications for Cleary’s approach, including understanding the development of organs and systems, and disease prediction. Most recently, Cleary has been interested in brain development. But beyond the brain, the possibilities for using these techniques are endless.

“There are so many different types of applications,” Cleary says, “and that’s one of the reasons why it’s exciting for me to work in the very basic science.”

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