It is rather rare to be given the opportunity to establish a new faculty from scratch. That’s the unanimous opinion of those involved in establishing the new Faculty of Informatics and Data Science (FIDS) at the University of Regensburg. FIDS was officially launched in 2022. It offers the opportunity to conduct research at the interface of informatics and data science and other traditional disciplines, such as medicine, biology, and business economics.
Join us as we take a stroll through the new faculty, meeting some of its researchers.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is an important research field at the new faculty. Prathiba Kumari, who holds a PhD from the Indian Institute of Technology Ropar, is among one of the first postdoctoral researchers to be starting a research project at FIDS. She wants to develop an AI model for disease detection that remembers its past learning. "Usually, the appearance of a disease varies due to various factors like different clinical environments, imaging device settings, and the angle of the imaging," says Kumari. "But a disease and its surrounding cell structure might evolve or change over time. Our aim is to develop an AI model that automatically and continuously learns these changes over time and hence does not show any reduction in performance."
Kumari is conducting her research together with Professor Dorit Merhof, who moved to UR’s new FIDS faculty in October 2022. Merhof researches deep learning at the intersection of machine learning, signal, image, and video processing, as well as biomedical image analysis. UR's reputation for excellence in immunology, cancer diagnostics and therapeutics, renal research, and biomedical imaging technologies are of major interest to her research. Alongside the new faculty’s interdisciplinary research fields, FIDS offers an attractive and sustainable research environment for her working group, which has direct access to the AI-clusters of the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities.
Among Merhof’s colleagues at the new FIDS faculty is Professor Merle Behr, a statistician and mathematician. Since October 2022, she has been professor of machine learning at FIDS. Behr focuses on statistical machine learning for data problems from various domains, particularly in the fields of biomedicine and genetics. She discusses how certain AI models work, what data they are using, and how they arrive at particular decisions or predictions. "Huge datasets in the healthcare sector have the potential to make progress in machine learning methods," says Behr.
Research findings are of major interest to the life sciences, particularly when it comes to advancing the understanding of the mechanisms of disease and thereby supporting the development of new therapeutic concepts.
Behr's colleague, Professor Rainer Spang has held the Chair of Statistical Bioinformatics at UR since 2006. Having an interdisciplinary background, he enjoys engaging in collaborative projects. Spang is among the life scientists who switched to the new faculty. His group works on algorithms, models, and statistical methodology aimed at understanding and improving tumor biology. Together with the doctoral candidates researching in his chair, he is designing methods for reconstructing the history of tumors.
The dynamic research environment coupled with the ability to experiment at FIDS has attracted both established and newly appointed professors. Their broad international and professional experience are ideal prerequisites for designing research projects and innovative degree programs. FIDS’ first dean of studies, Professor Juliane Krämer, has been preparing for the start of the new bachelor of science degree in computer science and data science, which is due to begin in the winter semester 2023/24, with a master of science degree program already in planning. Krämer was also the first professor to be appointed to FIDS in 2022. Among her research projects is the BMBF-funded project "Quant-ID." The project aims to develop (secure) post-quantum solutions for critical identity access management infrastructures.
Another major area of research is that at the interface of data science and business economics. Among UR’s experts in this field is Professor Daniel Schnurr. He holds the new Chair of Machine Learning and Uncertainty Quantification at FIDS, which focuses on analyzing big data as a crucial competitive factor and driver of innovation in the digital economy. Schnurr’s own research focuses on individual users, companies, and organizations, as well as embedded socio-economic systems. Schnurr is particularly interested in issues surrounding the interaction between AI and humans. "If I use an AI pricing algorithm and there is a human on the other side, will the human accept the AI's suggestions?" Schnurr and his team want to answer such questions using experimental methods in a new laboratory.
Postdoctoral researchers and doctoral candidates who are conducting research on AI and who enjoy being part of a young faculty with internationally connected scholars are in the right place at Regensburg, says Professor Udo Kruschwitz. He worked for more than 20 years in the UK before coming to Regensburg. Kruschwitz holds the Chair of Information Science and is as interested in natural language processing and information retrieval as in transferring knowledge and bringing academia and industry together. "At Regensburg, scholars have great opportunities to link our AI research directly with large branches of international companies," he says.
Establishing the new Faculty of Informatics and Data Science (FIDS) at UR has been the largest structural project to take place at the University of Regensburg in the last 30 years. It is pioneering and forward-looking, both for the university and the City of Regensburg, as well as for the economic region of eastern Bavaria. FIDS brings together and strengthens the IT competences already successfully existing at UR. At the same time, the new faculty supports and strengthens digital competences in all research fields, as well as in teaching by establishing "core informatics" with an application-neutral and methodical orientation. Among the new professorships at FIDS, 15 are funded by the Hightech Agenda Bavaria (HTA).
The Faculty of Informatics and Data Science (FIDS) at the University of Regensburg consists of various departments. They focus on scientific methods and foundations, machine learning and data science, computer science in the life sciences, information science and media informatics, as well as business informatics. Research activities include the following five key areas:
- Data Analytics Technologies
- Human Computer Interaction
- IT Security and Process Science
- Algorithms in Precise Medicine
- Explainable AI
Besides individual research, interdisciplinary and international collaborative research is a high priority at UR’s twelfth and youngest faculty.