Faculty voice:

Christopher Mancuso: Computing for a cause

Nov. 6, 2019

Christopher Mancuso is a postdoctoral researcher in MSU’s Department of Computational Mathematics, Science and Engineering,  a joint department of the College of Natural Science and the College of Engineering.

Throughout my life, I have always tried to be open-minded about the direction my life could go. September 11 occurred during my senior year of high school, so I quickly signed up to join the United States Marine Corps, where I did intelligence work for five years.

While I was deployed to Iraq, people would send us care packages. A friend of mine would always get Scientific American magazine; I started reading it and became interested in physics and how things worked on a fundamental level.

So instead of re-enlisting, I went back home, and enrolled at the University of Delaware to get a degree in physics.

At Delaware, I began doing research using lasers — and quickly fell in love with them. I was lucky enough to be accepted at the University of Colorado–Boulder for graduate school, which was ranked as the top school in the nation in the field of atomic, molecular and optical physics. I worked on developing ultrafast x-ray lasers and graduated with my Ph.D. in the summer of 2016.

We moved to East Lansing when my wife, Kathleen Hinko, accepted a tenure-track job at MSU. During my first year here, I worked on a genetics-based biomedical imaging project using ultrafast lasers.

During this project I became interested in computational analysis of biomedical data, and in 2017 I joined the lab of Dr. Arjun Krishnan, making the switch from experimental laser science to computational biology.

I recently received the Ruth L. Kirschstein Postdoctoral Individual National Research Service Award from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences at the National Institutes of Health. The fellowship started September 1 and includes a three-year stipend and an institutional allowance.

As part of the fellowship, I will develop new computational approaches that leverage large-scale molecular networks to create accurate data-driven models for interpreting the roles of genes in complex traits and diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and autism.

I believe that my experiences as a veteran and first-generation college student will allow me to serve as a unique mentor for undergraduate students from underrepresented backgrounds.

During this fellowship, I plan on continuing to provide consultation and support for the graduate and undergraduate students in Dr. Krishnan’s group. I will continue my engagement with K-12 outreach, and I’d like to become involved in NIH’s National Research Mentoring Network.

The freedom and support this fellowship will provide will play an essential role in transitioning me from a research practitioner to a research leader.