Samuel Scarpino Plans to Take AI Program to New Heights

Professor Samuel Scarpino has returned to Northeastern University from a year as Vice President, Pathogen Surveillance at the Rockefeller Foundation, with a mission to strengthen Northeastern’s position as a global leader in artificial intelligence and life sciences.

Scarpino has been the director of AI plus life sciences at the Institute for Experiential AI in Northeastern since November. He was previously an assistant professor at the Network Science Institute.

Scarpino recently sat down with [email protected] to answer questions about what makes Northeastern a formidable presence in the AI ​​space. His comments have been edited for clarity and brevity.

What is it about Northeastern that makes the university a leader in AI?

Northeastern’s real strength lies in the importance it attaches to transdisciplinary collaboration and partnerships between business and science.

One reason Northeastern is uniquely positioned to be a leader in this space is because of the word “experimental,” which means cooperatives, but also means “people in the know.” We can do so much more with AI plus humans than with AI alone or humans alone. The idea is that the AI ​​will pick up on things that we might overlook. Humans can also pick up on things that the AI ​​might miss.

Can you give us an example?

The UK has procedures where mammograms are scanned by AI systems. Some of these mammograms are also reviewed by expert panels.

Headshot by Samuel Scarpino
Samuel Scarpino, assistant professor at the Northeastern Network Science Institute. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

A computer can read 10,000 mammograms without pausing. I can’t remember how many an experienced pathologist can read before having to take a break, but it’s not very many, is it?

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Former British Prime Minister Theresa May said AI could reduce cancer deaths by 10% annually.

AI isn’t a silver bullet, but I would definitely subscribe to prevent 10% of cancer deaths. For the final clinical diagnosis, the clinician would have both the AI ​​value and possibly the input of the diagnostic expert panel.

They spoke about the importance of AI in predicting disease states and the tragedy of the existence of anonymized health data that is not used clinically. How could it be used better? And what are the privacy implications?

I’m not an expert on data protection. One of the reasons I joined the Institute for Experiential AI at Northeastern is that it has privacy and ethics experts.