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SRP 2017 Faculty Profile: Dr. Wilson Rivera, University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez

Dr. Wilson Rivera, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez (UPRM), arranged summer internships at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) for two of his students through the Sustainable Research Pathways (SRP) program. Julian Cuevas is a third-year undergraduate majoring in software engineering. Dan Rosa de Jesus is a computer engineering graduate student.

At an SRP workshop in December 2017, Dr. Silvia Crivelli, a computational biologist at LBNL, whose research focus is protein folding, was introduced to Dr. Rivera and his research. Together with John Wu, who leads the Scientific Data Management Group at Berkeley Lab, Rivera and Crivelli developed a research proposal that was accepted for development and led to a summer research experience at Berkeley Lab for Dr. Rivera and his students.

The UPRM research team spent the last two months working with Dr. Crivelli. Julian Cuevas describes their research: “We are looking at how Deep Neural Networks (DNNs) are applied to the problem of protein structure prediction”. This work seeks to transform the relationship between deep learning and structural biology with the development of interpretability models that will aid researchers in understanding the “thinking” process of computers, as the machines attempt to predict the structure of proteins, Rosa de Jesús noted.

Scientists at Berkeley Lab and UPRM hope to train science, technology, mathematics and engineering professionals and motivate other faculty and students at UPRM to explore emerging areas in computing science, such as deep learning. “After this experience, we are in a position to have a group of students at UPRM who will continue the work on this project,” Rivera said. He continued: “We are going to take what we have been working on here at the lab this summer and continue it back at UPRM.”

Sustainable Horizons Institute is especially pleased with the way that this research will continue to develop. The SRP program objective is to extend science beyond the lab into the lives and careers of faculty and students across the nation. Collaboration is the key to success. SHI is excited to support the growth of the Computer Science and Engineering program at UPRM through the Sustainable Research Pathways program, and we hope to encourage the pursuit of Computing Sciences disciplines among students and faculty at this university and at all higher learning facilities. Read more about Dr. Rivera and his research team here.