Saul Ashley

Atlanta, Ga.

M.S. Biomedical Data Science

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M.S. Data Science

M.S. Biomedical Data Science

Ph.D. Biomedical Data Science

When Saul Ashley was six years old, computers provided an essential escape during a difficult time.

Diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, he spent ages 6 to 10 going through various excruciating treatments and therapies.

“Whatever you could think of, I’ve probably been through it,” says Ashley.

He found happiness and relief in a hospital computer room.

“One of the main things that kept me happy during those sad times were the computers in the hospitals,” he says. “I spent like 95 percent of my time there.”

That experience sparked a passion for technology.

“I knew, just from the pain and the tribulations that I went through, that I wanted to use that source of happiness to help anyone in any way possible,” says Ashley.

“And that’s my purpose,” he adds. “My mission statement is to help people through tech in any way possible.”

Ashley pursued technology as an undergraduate at Morehouse College, graduating with a Bachelor’s of Science in Software Engineering. He interned for the NASA-sponsored United Negro College Fund Summer Computer Science Academy, held in collaboration with Google.  He was also a researcher for the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program where he developed and applied novel quantum computational chemistry methods.

After graduation, he was happy to move forward in software engineering, but felt a pull to find a profession that was closer to his mission.

“I spoke to my mentor and he suggested that I look at data science,” he says.

His interests in data science took off when he read about its role with precision medicine.

“The whole concept of making treatments that are useful for specific subgroups of people just felt extremely personal to me,” says Ashley.

“That is when I knew data science is for me,” he says. “Especially when it’s applications within medicine affect people who probably went through the things that I went through.”

Ashley is pursuing his mission through the precision medicine concentration of the Master of Science in Biomedical Data Science program at Meharry. He is also a research assistant, supporting Uttam Ghosh, Ph.D., associate professor of cybersecurity. Their work will help develop edge computing to develop an edge-cloud interplay platform that will provide efficient data communication and processing for Intelligent Medical Systems. This research, funded by the National Science Foundation CISE-MSI program, will expose him to research at the intersection of artificial intelligence, software-defined networking (SDN), cloud, and edge technologies.

In addition to his day job and evening classes with Meharry, he volunteers weekly by preparing meals at women shelters. He also plans to become a camp counsellor at Camp Boggy Creek, a program for kids with cancer.

Such a full slate of activities could overwhelm most people, and Ashley admits to wearing down.

“Even though I am constantly tired mentally and physically, I always think about that version of myself at the end of the tunnel and all the people I can help,” he says. “I always just think, well, if you don’t do it, you can’t help the people the way that you want.”

As he pursues that vision, Ashley hopes to publish his first paper. After graduation, he plans to work in an entry level corporate sector data science job to start building experience.

The next step will hopefully realize his lifelong goal.

“After I have enough experience, I would like to transition to a data science research role focused on precision medicine,” says Ashley.