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5 minutes with Heba Sailem

Dr Heba Sailem is a Senior Lecturer of Biomedical AI and Data Science at the School of Cancer and Pharmaceutical Sciences. We took five minutes out of her busy day to learn more about her.

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Briefly, tell us about your background and career up to this point?

I have a BSc in Computer Science and MSc in Data Warehousing and Data Mining. I was always passionate about biology and genetics, so I decided to do a multidisciplinary PhD in computational biology at the Institute of Cancer Research. From that point, I continued working at the interface between computing and biology and my group work is focused on developing explainable AI approaches that enable discovering predictive cancer biomarkers toward more individualised therapies through a holistic understanding of biological mechanisms.

What is a typical day like for you?

There is rarely a typical day. My day could involve a mix of meeting with my team members and PhD students, discussing new project ideas with colleagues and collaborators, writing papers and grants. I also enjoy working with microscopy images and data which help me think about potential ideas for developing methods and new research questions.

Looking back, did the pandemic and resulting lockdowns teach you anything you’re willing to share?

With two young kids and homeschooling, the pandemic was certainly a challenging time. I certainly learned to be very strategic about what I choose to work on.

Do you have any current projects that you’d like to tell us about?

We are currently developing an AI approach for studying the role of tumour microenvironment and cellular interactions in colorectal cancer. We have some interesting findings that explain potential causes for variable patient response.

What is something positive that happened to you in 2022?

I have recently secured an eight-year Wellcome Career Development Award. For 2023, I am excited to start my award and start executing the science I proposed in my programme.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

Winning the Early Career Bioinformatician Award 2021 from the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics for developing knowledge-driven machine learning approaches for inference of context-specific gene functions.

What is your favourite thing about working at King’s?

I think King’s is really leading in creating a positive and inclusive research culture.


Favourite season:


Coffee order: Latte

One thing you could not go a day without: coffee

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Heba Sailem

Heba Sailem

Senior Lecturer of Biomedical AI and Data Science

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