#UofTGrad17 Guang Shi: Teaching Machines How to Read

Jun 2, 2017
Guang ShiAfter moving to Canada with his family in 2004, Guang Shi fostered his love of science though undergraduate studies in biochemistry and biotechnology at Ottawa’s Carlton University. Now, he focuses his passion for discovery on helping find new treatments for Parkinson’s disease, a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. In addition to his commitment to learning more about the mechanisms that lead to neurodegenerative diseases, Shi also ‘teaches’ computers how to analyze antibodies. He spoke to Faculty of Medicine writer Julia Soudat about his research interests and the best part about being at U of T.

What is your area of interest? What are you working on?

I’m interested in mitochondrial biology and its role in neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease. Mitochondria are essential organelles known as the powerhouses of living cells.

A process called mitophagy eliminates damaged mitochondria from healthy neurons. When this process fails, it’s thought to be a potential mechanism for Parkinson’s. Through my research, I found new evidence that strengthens links between Parkinson’s and impaired mitophagy. These findings could open doors for new treatments for Parkinson’s disease.

I also work as a biomedical data analyst at BenchSci, a start-up founded by U of T graduates in 2015. BenchSci is a platform that lets scientists search through scientific papers to find antibody usage data. My role is to “train” the machine by validating search results. Basically, I teach the machine how to read a research paper and be able to tell the difference between a right and wrong connection between technique and antibodies.

What were your most rewarding experiences at U of T?

U of T provided great opportunities for me to grow as a student and as a researcher. I’ve had so many opportunities to meet talented people who are experts in their fields and collaborate with them. 

What’s in store for the future? What do you plan to do after graduating?

I’m really passionate about my research, so after completing my PhD, I plan to continue working to discover treatments for Parkinson’s disease. Although I’m not sure if I’ll end up working in academia or industry, I know that I’ll always be on the “research scientist” path.

What advice do you have for incoming students?

Enjoy your time in school and take advantage of every opportunity offered to you. Explore, don’t limit yourself and remember that there’s always something new around the corner. It may take a while to become apparent — but it’s there.

What do you like to do when you’re not in school?

In the summer, I spend most of my time gardening, hiking and swimming – I love the outdoors! During the colder months, I enjoy reading by the fireplace and watching old movies.

For the full schedule of #UofTGrad17 convocation ceremonies, visit www.convocation.utoronto.ca/events





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