17/01/2020 Interview

Bryan Percy Saldivar Espinoza, international fellow at the Faculty of Chemistry, winner of a Martí i Franquès COFUND Doctoral Fellowship Programme grant

“I aim to enable ways for the personalized medicine to be used for diseases related to nutrition”

Bryan Percy Saldivar is an international fellow at the Faculty of Chemistry and winner of a Martí i Franquès COFUND Doctoral Fellowship Programme grant. His research project aims to create a predictive model capable of suggesting the most suitable diet for patients/users given their health condition in order to keep or improve their health, as part of the PhD programme in Nutrigenomics and Personalised Nutrition at Universitat Rovira i Virgili.

How would you explain your research to a non-scientific audience?

Have you noticed that when you want a suit/dress a tailor measures your body parts so that the clothing suits you nice, tailor-made? Why is it not the same with medicine? There is a vast population that keeps changing the pills or treatment that they were given because it caused notorious adverse effects or the medicine did not have enough effect. With my research I aim to enable ways for this personalized medicine to be used particularly for diseases related to nutrition, such as diabetes, obesity or hypertension. As means of approach, I apply Artificial Intelligence to leverage my work.

What are the main applications of your research? Could you give us an example?

I expect to reduce clinical screening time and cost. Less time consumed by a patient in order to get diagnosed, consequently, cheaper analyses and more patients treated without increasing hospitals’ infrastructure. In my research I aim to predict variables gotten from expensive procedures, based on variables from cheaper analyses.

Do you think that your research topic will be a key element in the near future?

Absolutely, my area or research is a current trend. A lot of research is being done applying Artificial Intelligence in medicine. The target diseases and performance of the solutions for them are growing continuously. In that sense, many companies are investing in moving research done with Artificial Intelligence into products and services that people could use to improve their lives.

What are you doing in the training course on Artificial Intelligence at the Pi School, in Italy?

I am working in the development of a medical device for health monitoring. I constantly read scientific literature, build software, perform software based experiments, attend internal talks and have meetings with companies and mentors.

Many companies are investing in moving research done with Artificial Intelligence into products and services that people could use to improve their lives

How do you think this experience will contribute to your scientific career?

As a result of this program, now I can make my research more useful to society due to moving the scientific results into the development of a commercial product.  Moreover, now I can review scientific literature and develop software way better than before. In addition, I improved my presentation and communication skills with people outside my research field.

What has been the best thing about your time staying at Pi School?

The whole program is fantastic, it is remarkable the synergy of actors such as the companies that hold the need for development of a product, the mentors that help you out and give you a sense of direction, the ease of access to food so I just focus on working without any additional worries. Well-orchestrated.

Bryan Saldivar (top left) during the training course on Artificial Intelligence at the Pi School, in Rome. Photo credits: Pi School.

What have you planned once you finish your PhD?

I am considering to start a start-up company related to Artificial Intelligence applications for health or joining a research group in a company or university. I am very enthusiastic about the capabilities I am building with this PhD and the impact I will have in society.

I am very enthusiastic about the capabilities I am building with this PhD and the impact I will have in society

How did you learn about the MFP-COFUND grants, and why did you choose URV?

I was looking forward to study abroad and I saw the call. Among many programs and calls, the profile of the PhD position at URV matched smoothly my profile. I knew this was for me.

In the time you have been here, what have you liked the most about your experience at our University and in Tarragona?

I like how peaceful it is, it is very relaxing looking at the trees, hearing the birds and looking at clear sky. The architecture was well planned and implemented.


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