The Department of Computer Science welcomed associate professor Debswapna Bhattacharya during the spring 2022 semester. Bhattacharya most recently served as assistant professor at Auburn University (2017 to 2021) and Wichita State University (2016 to 2017). 

He indulged us by sharing 10 things about himself, ranging from his research interests, what brought him to Virginia Tech, to some of his favorite hobbies. You can also check out his personal bio page for even more information.

 

1. What does your research entail?

My primary research interests are computational biology and applied machine learning with a particular focus on AI-powered molecular modeling. I am also interested in applications of data science in bioinformatics. My recent projects are focused on developing data-driven machine learning and optimization algorithms to elucidate complex relationships between macromolecular sequences, structures, functions, interactions, and pathways. These projects are generously supported by multiple federal agencies including the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

2. What do you hope to accomplish with your research?

The long-term goal of my research is to obtain a deeper understanding of biological systems at the molecular level, where fundamental biochemistry takes place; and being able to connect it to the cellular scales, where biological function (or dysfunction) is realized. Computational models that we develop powered by the latest advances in AI and machine learning serve as vehicles for interrogating such fundamental biological processes at varying levels of granularities, with broad implications in drug discovery and human health.

3.Can you share about the courses you are teaching?

I am currently teaching two courses. One of them is an undergraduate level “Machine Learning” course, which aims to expose students to a wide range of topics in machine learning covering their intuitions, mathematical foundations, analyses, and applications. The course also offers experiential learning opportunities for the students through hands-on assignments spanning various learning algorithms and a course project to equip students with problem-solving skills.

The other course is a graduate level course titled “AI-powered Molecular Modeling”, which surveys the emerging field of computational modeling of molecular structures driven by advances in AI and machine learning, thereby brining cutting-edge research into the classroom in order to train the next generation of researchers. These educational activities pave the way towards integrating research and education, an important ongoing commitment of my faculty career. In addition, I am mentoring several graduate students in the department working towards their theses and dissertations.

4. Why did you choose Virginia Tech?

I was drawn to Virginia Tech because my core values align well with the university motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve). The excellent reputation of the computer science department and the College of Engineering attracts talented faculty, students, and postdocs—providing excellent collaboration and mentoring opportunities. I was equally impressed by Virginia Tech’s commitment to interdisciplinary research, which is a strong motivator for someone like myself conducting cross-disciplinary research at the interface of computing and biology.

5. What is your favorite thing about your job?

I love working with students and mentoring them in various aspects of research and education. This is easily my favorite thing.

6. Why is your job important to you?

I am excited about continuing my journey as a researcher and educator to disseminate knowledge and mentor younger generations of scientists and engineers at the interface of computing and biology.

7. What do you do to relax?

I love nature. My wife Sahajiya and I enjoy the outdoors to explore nature, unwind, and relax. Blacksburg is a beautiful town. It is a true privilege to be able to live and work here!

8. Do you have any hobbies that you would like to share?

I am a huge fan of western classical music, particularly classical guitar repertoire. Some of my favorite classical guitarists and/or composers are Fernando Sor, Francisco Tárrega, Andrés Segovia, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Agustín Barrios Mangoré, Julian Bream, and David Russell.

9. How do you balance your work with your life?

I constantly strive to optimize work-life balance. But like many optimization problems, I frequently get stuck in local optima :) So it is “work-in-progress!”

10. Is there anything else that you would like to share?

I would like to thank my colleagues for their kind words of welcome to the department. I feel fortunate to be a part of such a collegial community!