The Science Behind Innovation

Professor's research focuses on intersection of computer science and medicine.

Written by Tracy DeCroce
Photography by Yosef Chaim Kalinko
April 16, 2019

Lin Li, PhD, assistant professor of Computer Science in the College of Science and Engineering, wants to create a world where computer-aided techniques will help provide more accurate and less invasive ways of diagnosing diseases, such as skin cancer, diabetic retinopathy and hyperglycemia/hypoglycemia.

The focus of her research, on medical-image analysis and computer-aided diagnosis using machine learning, has similarities with computer science, despite the pathological and biological differences in the three diseases.

One project seeks to create a device that diagnoses melanoma skin cancer, without the invasive, costly and slower process of a biopsy and lab work. Li and her collaborators have developed a computer-aided spectroscopic system that photographs and analyzes the skin area for immediate diagnosis.

Li is also developing an approach to detect retinopathy in diabetes patients. The approach contains image processing and analysis and a machine-learning component for automatically identifying early clinical signs of diabetic retinopathy.

In another project to help diabetic patients, Li is developing an approach for automated prediction of blood glucose levels and detection of hyperglycemia/hypoglycemia with machine-learning techniques. The approach can help regulate a patient’s glucose levels and alert for high or low readings.

Ultimately, Li would like her research to lead to the development of automated diagnostic tools or apps. By publishing her initial findings, she hopes to attract physicians who will be interested in collaborating.

Li received both her bachelor and master’s degrees in computer science from Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications in China. She earned her doctorate in computer science in 2012 from Clemson University where she began her research focus in medical imaging.

Since joining Seattle University in 2014, Li has been teaching undergraduate and graduate students and computer-science certificate courses for people with bachelor’s degrees in non-computer fields. One or two of her students assist with her research almost each year.

But research wasn’t what drew her to Seattle U.

“Seattle U values the excellence in teaching and I enjoy teaching,” she says. “The second reason I came to SU is the mission of SU is consistent with my own belief. My scholarship also fits the department needs.”