Jun “Luke” Huan, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Kansas School of Engineering, was selected to receive the prestigious CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation. The five-year, $500,000 grant will help Huan further his work in bioinformatics. Bioinformatics harnesses computer analysis to learn more about complex biological information, especially molecular genetics and genomics.
“The goal of this research is to elucidate the interaction of chemicals and biological systems using computational approaches,” Huan said. “When we look at chemical genomics – the complete set of genomic response to chemical compounds – we begin by dealing with highly complex raw data. Most people are familiar with three dimensions. Well, these data can often have thousands of dimensions as they relate to each other, and they are often incomplete and distorted. In addition, there is simply a staggering amount of data collected. Through developing new kinds of computational modeling we want to describe and then predict what certain chemical structures do to biological systems.”
The NSF’s Faculty Early Career Development “CAREER” Program supports junior faculty members who “exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research.”
Huan will work with collaborators in academia, industry and governmental agencies, including the KU Special Chemistry Center, lead by Professor of Medicinal Chemistry Jeff Aubé at the School of Pharmacy.
“Once successful, we expect to provide better computational modeling techniques that will improve the interpretation of complex chemical data collected through high-speed automated screening. This will help accelerate drug discovery with a simplified and focused drug design process and allow for better monitoring of chemical toxicity in environment protection,” Huan said.
KU students also benefit from the award.
“This grant will help me support graduate and undergraduate student research assistants to advance the research in bioinformatics,” he said.
The modeling knowledge gained also can be applied beyond the chemical domain; examples include analysis of communication networks and wireless sensor networks.
Huan joined the KU faculty in 2006. He is an affiliated member of the KU Information and Telecommunication Technology Center, the KU Bioinformatics Center, the KU Bioengineering Program, and the KU Center for Biostatistics and Advanced Informatics. He received his doctorate in computer science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2006. Before joining KU, he worked at the Argonne National Laboratory and GlaxoSmithKline plc. He received the Scholar of Tomorrow Fellowship in 2001 and the Alumni Fellowship in 2005 both from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.