Assistant Professor Lu Lu, an expert in machine learning and multiscale modeling as they pertain to biomedical systems, is the newest member of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
Lu, previously a member of the Department of Mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, applies the computational techniques at the heart of “big data” to the complicated physical and chemical interactions that drive biological processes, including those implicated in disease.
In sickle cell disease, for example, several different mutations alter the makeup of the blood protein hemoglobin. The way these altered proteins interact with each other and the membranes of red blood cells is what ultimately give rise to their sickle shape. Understanding the mechanisms behind those interactions could point toward ways of blocking the shape-changing effect, but because those interactions occur on length scales that range from nanometers to micrometers, it is difficult to get a complete picture.
Lu’s research involves developing ways to build predictive models of these mechanisms, despite the relatively small amount of data that can be collected from real-life blood cells as mutated hemoglobin proteins interact.
Lu has also studied predictive models for glucose levels in type 2 diabetes patients and molecular simulations of amyloid fibrils, which are implicated in a number of diseases, including Alzheimers.