Krishna Shah, a University of New Orleans graduate student in computer science, has always been interested in solving problems. He initially pursued a biology degree because he wanted to create better vaccines for infectious diseases.
“Later, I shifted to computer science with focuses in machine learning and artificial intelligence because I could see how machine learning can be applied to almost anything in this data-heavy digital world,” Shah said.
Shah recently completed a research internship with Oracle Corporation in which he worked on a problem that combined both disciplines. He used Oracle’s latest machine learning tools to build a new predictive model that targets dermo (Perkinsus marinus), a parasitic disease that is one of the main causes of mortality in Gulf Coast oysters.
This research was a joint initiative between Oracle and UNO’s Canizaro Livingston Gulf States Center for Environmental Informatics (GulfSCEI).
GulfSCEI maintains a sizable database that tracks dermo prevalence across multiple sites extending back several years; however, the exact interaction between infection intensity and environmental factors such as salinity and temperature has never been completely determined. Under the guidance of GulfSCEI domain experts, Shah created a predictive model targeting the disease, an asset that may aid biologists in better understanding the erratic phenomenon.
“I had a very enriching experience at Oracle Labs, where I had a chance to impact a real-life local issue with the novel technologies provided by Oracle,” said Shah, who worked as a machine learning intern. “I used AutoMLx and Spatial Studio to predict the rate of infection intensities in the oyster farms in the Gulf South.”
“This internship was also very special to me because it was a collaboration between GulfSCEI and Oracle labs. I could talk to GulfSCEI researchers to gain insight into the problem and then tackle it with the help of the immense talents of my mentors and co-workers at Oracle.”
Shah received his bachelor’s degree with honors from UNO’s Department of Biological Sciences and was the recipient of the Homer L. Hitt Presidential Scholarship Award. Shah then entered the computer science master’s program; he is expected to receive his degree in December 2022.
“Even though I had just started my career in computer science, this experience helped me learn and grow rapidly,” said Shah.
This Oracle-GulfSCEI research project is expected to lead to stronger ties between the center and Oracle labs, said Mahdi Abdelguerfi, chair of the computer science department and GulfSCEI director.