Bradford Patton


Nashville, Tenn.

M.S. Data Science

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M.S. Data Science

M.S. Biomedical Data Science

Ph.D. Biomedical Data Science

Bradford Patton is always eager to take on a challenge. At Tougaloo College he kept an active schedule as a math major and member of the college’s baseball team.

“I knew math would be a difficult major, but by my sophomore year I was confident I would succeed,” says Patton.

His math major gave him a background that he could apply in several areas. But at the same time, his undergraduate experience served as a crash course in time management.

“I would wake up at 5 a.m. for workouts, go to class, then practice and study late into the night,” says Patton.

Nevertheless, Patton sought opportunities to expand his knowledge base.

Tougaloo introduced new minors in cybersecurity and biomedicine and he embraced the opportunity to gain a foundation in both disciplines.

“My family has had some health issues, so I’ve always had an interest in medicine,” says Patton. “I was able to do a couple of biomedical research projects and even presented at the Mississippi Academy of Sciences Conference for INBRE research on the Numerical Study on Fluid Dynamics of Swallowing Processes.”

Through the cybersecurity program, Patton gained experience in programing languages like C++, Java and Python. He was able to do an internship that introduced him to several professionals. With an eye on his own future, he asked them about career trends.

“One cybersecurity manager told me that artificial intelligence is the thing to get into. He was even thinking of changing careers himself,” says Patton.

That conversation sparked an interest in data science that ultimately led to him enrolling as a member of the Fall 2022 cohort at Meharry School of Applied Computational Sciences.

Patton’s well-honed work ethic and time management skills continue to serve him well at Meharry. During the spring of 2023, Patton was selected as an NHI R25 Scholar. Through this prestigious opportunity, he is spending 10 weeks in a meaningful summer research experience with students and faculty from Meharry, Fisk University, and the Department of Biomedical Informatics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The program is his first in-depth research experience and he is fully committed to making the most of the opportunity.

“I am dedicating all of my non-class time to the program,” says Patton. Patton is working with research mentor Bishnu Sarker, Ph.D., assistant professor of computer science and data science. Their work is an important area related to repurposing treatments for diseases.

“Our research has to do with rare diseases,” explains Patton. “I am working on a knowledge graph that we will use to see how existing drugs on the market may link, protein to protein, to those rare diseases.”

A knowledge graph represents a network of real-world entities and illustrates the relationship between them.

The NIH R25 Scholars program also offers several educational and networking opportunities.

“I have met the Fisk and Vanderbilt students in the program and have learned from some speakers too,” says Patton. “Like Dr. Lee Limbird, she was just amazing.”

Dr. Limbird is the dean of the School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Business at Fisk. She has also held leadership roles at Vanderbilt and Meharry.

“Just learning about each person’s experience and the different paths you can take in the medical field really opens your mind to all that is possible,” says Patton.

He is also making important networking connections.

“Everyone I meet is really welcoming and open to talking with me,” says Patton. “I know that I can bounce ideas off them and seek guidance about my future.”

Dr. Sarker has also introduced Patton to a weekly research group where he discusses his research progress and receives feedback.

“The group includes faculty and Ph.D. students. It is a lot of work to prepare for each meeting, but it helps sharpen my skills and they are also really good contacts,” says Patton.

Just one year away from graduation, Patton eyes two possible career paths that combine data with his personal interests.

“Athletes are using data now to excel, and that is a big reason that pitchers can throw over 100 mph. They are learning from data,” says Patton. “I would also like to use data to help athletes who struggle with mental health issues.”

His other potential path ties to his long interest in aviation.

“I have also always wanted to work with airplanes and would love to be an analyst for NASA and work in aeronautics,” says Patton.