Julian Broughton

Julian Broughton

Nashville, Tenn.

M.S. Biomedical Data Science

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M.S. Data Science

M.S. Biomedical Data Science

Ph.D. Biomedical Data Science

Julian Broughton enrolled at University of Tennessee – Knoxville in the pre-med program as a biology major. He soon realized a new way to help people.

“I started to realize the clinical side wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to do, but I always had an interest in computers and coding,” says Broughton. “At the same time, artificial intelligence had become a huge topic. So, I tried to find the intersection of biology and technology.”

He switched his major to biological sciences and added a minor in data science. Then, he learned about the importance of data ethics.

“I saw that there was so much more to data science than sitting on a computer and writing programs,” he says. “You need people who review data and make sure it accurately represents the community that it is supposed to benefit.”

That realization gave Broughton new purpose.

“I wanted to be a doctor because I wanted to help people however I can,” he says. “Learning about data ethics made me realize you can still have a big impact on people through computer science.”

The Meharry SACS Master of Science in Biomedical Data Science degree was an obvious next step. He was also a perfect candidate for support from the Direct Relief Fund for Health Equity.

“I was very appreciative of the Direct Relief scholarship,” he says. “Not only did that funding give me reassurance, but the opportunity for an internship where I could apply what I am learning was also exciting.”

Broughton has eagerly pursued opportunities to gain meaningful experiences as a Meharry student. He received a 2024 Novartis Beacon of Hope Summer Fellowship at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. He will spend 10 weeks on the East Hanover, N.J. campus working with Novartis researchers on a project to develop an R Shiny application that will gain insightful informatics from Novartis’ product trials.

He also spent much of his first year working with Vibhuti Gupta, Ph.D., assistant professor of computer science and data science, on the NSF Expanding AI Innovation through Capacity Building and Partnerships grant. The research is a stepping stone towards building an artificial intelligence institute at Meharry devoted to foundational and use-inspired advances in Trustworthy AI in Medical Systems.

“Our work is heavily related to data ethics, and I saw it as the perfect opportunity to get more experience,” says Broughton.

Broughton’s primary role on the team is exploring demographic bias in data sets used for health care applications.

“My job is to use these functions called fairness metrics on data sets to detect racial, gender or age bias,” he explains. “We are still brainstorming methods to mitigate that bias. In the future, we hope companies will implement our work on a wider scale.”

Moving forward, he hopes to publish some of his findings and plans to attend a conference in the fall of 2024.

“I also look forward to learning different areas of data science and to become more well-rounded overall as I start to reach the end of my program,” he says.