In this week’s edition of Who’s who in the Zoo, meet Science Scribbler‘s Michele Darrow.
Project: Science Scribbler
Researcher: Michele Darrow, Development Scientist
What are your main research interests?
I’m interested in various imaging techniques and how best to process the data collected from them to answer both biological questions and to develop algorithms to automate the process in the future.
Who else is in your project team? What are their roles?
Our team spans biologists, imaging technique experts and software engineers.
Tell us more about the data used in your project
Right now, Science Scribbler is working to process a dataset related to Huntington’s Disease. Many of the circular objects marked by volunteers as part of the project are organelles. These are smaller compartments inside of each cell, and each type of compartment has a different job. In Huntington’s Disease, some of the compartments are dysfunctional, but details about how the disease leads to this dysfunction aren’t really known. By comparing a diseased cell to a non-diseased cell we’re hoping to learn about organelle changes due to the disease.
How do Zooniverse volunteers contribute to your research?
Zooniverse volunteers are amazing! Without them, this project would be moving at a glacial speed!
For this project, volunteers are asked to place marks in the centers of objects and outline the objects. This information will first tell us where all of the organelles are so we can begin to answer our biological question. And second, using this dataset as a standard, we hope to create a computer algorithm that will use just the center points to find the outlines of the objects, making the task easier and faster in the future.
What discoveries, and other outputs, has your project led to so far?
We have retired 50% of the images in this first dataset. Because we’re far enough along, Mark, one of the software developers on the project, has begun to process the data. You can see the code that he is working on and his descriptions of what it does here.(https://github.com/DiamondLightSource/zooniverse/blob/master/notebooks/science_scribbler.ipynb)
What’s in store for your project in the future?
The problem of segmentation – marking out parts of a dataset in order to analyze is – is a common problem across many imaging techniques and disciplines. One of the benefits of working on these problems at Diamond Light Source is that there are always people and projects that need improved segmentation. Our next project on Science Scribbler will focus on a new imaging technique and a new segmentation problem. This switch in focus will give the original project some time to process the data, come up with potential computer algorithms to improve the process and think about the next steps. And it will give a new project and new researchers a chance to interact with the Zooniverse to jumpstart their research!
What are your favourite other citizen research projects and why?
I love Wildwatch Kenya! I find it super chill and it’s always fun when you find an animal in the picture!
And finally, when not at work, where are we most likely to find you?
Long walks with my husband and dogs (Jinx and Charm) and reading good books (right now, re-reading the Harry Potter series).