Data, Machines, and AI (DMAI) Reading Group

Data, Machines, and AI (DMAI) is a reading group where we discuss advanced AI topics and most recent research in machine learning and data science, all in the context of biomedical data.


Reading group meetings are held every two weeks. We have a speaker for every meeting. The speaker selects a paper and sends it to the group coordinator one week before the presentation. The coordinator shares the information with the group. Everyone is expected to read the paper carefully before the group meeting.

Each meeting lasts for 1 hour and consists of three parts:

  • Paper presentation (20 minutes): The speaker presents the paper, including background, motivation, key challenges, methods and modeling assumptions, datasets, and experiments. The focus is on models, algorithms, and learning methods.
  • Insights (5-10 minutes): The speaker shares their insights with the group. This includes insights related to the merits of the research, possible future directions, how can this research can be used in our ongoing projects, any drawbacks and ideas on how to fix them, any related-papers (other approaches to study the same problem), etc.
  • Discussion (25-30 minutes): Q&A and broader debate, brainstorming what questions in biomedical data these methods can help us answer, availability of data and source code implementation, any other topic attendees want to talk about.

These are interactive events; questions and comments are welcome throughout the meeting!


Every meeting has a dedicated speaker whose responsibility is to select a paper and present it. We use a rotation system for speakers. Members of the reading group can expect to speak 1-3 times a year.

Paper selection

Generally, papers presented at the reading group are published in top-tier venues (conferences and journals) in the last two years:

  • Interdisciplinary journals:
    • Nature, Science, and Cell family, NEJM, PNAS, Lancet journals, JAMA journals
  • Machine learning and data science:
    • Bioinformatics conferences: ISMB, RECOMB, PSB
    • Journals: TPAMI, JMLR, TKDD, TKDE, Bioinformatics, JAMIA, PLoS Computational Biology, BMC journals, ACS family

Please note this is only a sampling of relevant venues. We are generally interested in exciting, intriguing, and thought-provoking papers, no matter their publication venue, including preprints (e.g., arXiv, bioRxiv, and medRxiv).


Every other Thursday at 4:30-5:30pm.


Virtual meetings on Zoom. We will resume in-person meetings as soon as we return to campus.


If you have any questions, email the reading group coordinator (Xiang Zhang, <>). Suggestions are very much welcome!

Latest News

Oct 2021:   Adverse Drug Effects During the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped health and medicine in ways both dramatic and subtle. Some of the less obvious shifts can only emerge from analysis of millions of pieces of data—patient records, medical notes, clinical encounter reports. Check out the story in Harvard Medicine News highlighting our research.

Oct 2021:   Graph-Guided Networks for Time Series

New preprint! We introduce Raindrop, a graph-guided network for learning representations of irregularly sampled multivariate time series.

Oct 2021:   Massive Analysis of Differential Adverse Events

Hot off the press in Nature Computational Science! We develop an algorithmic approach for massive analysis of drug adverse events. Our analyses of 10,443,476 adverse event reports have implications for safe medication use and public health policy, and can enable comparison of COVID-19 pandemic to other health emergencies.

Sep 2021:   Leveraging Cell Ontology to Classify Cell Types

Hot off the press in Nature Communications! We developed OnClass, an algorithm and accompanying software for automatically classifying cells into cell types that are part of the controlled vocabulary that forms the Cell Ontology.

Sep 2021:   Major New Release of TDC

We are very excited to announce a major release of Therapeutics Data Commons! In the 0.3.0 release we restructured the codebase, simplified the backend and kept user interfaces the same. We also provide detailed documentation for our TDC package.

Aug 2021:   Trustworthy AI for Healthcare at AAAI

We will be organizing a meeting on Trustworthy AI for Healthcare at AAAI 2022. Stay tuned for details and call for papers.

Aug 2021:   New Paper on Therapeutics Data Commons

Our latest paper on Therapeutics Data Commons: Machine Learning Datasets and Tasks for Drug Discovery and Development will appear at NeurIPS. We are excited to contribute novel datasets and benchmarks in the broad area of therapeutics.

Aug 2021:   AI for Science at NeurIPS

We are organizing the AI for Science workshop at NeurIPS 2021 and have a stellar lineup of invited speakers.

Aug 2021:   Best Poster Award at ICML Comp Biology

Congratulations to Michelle for winning the Best Poster Award for her work on deep contextual learners for protein networks at the ICML Workshop on Computational Biology.

Jul 2021:   Best Paper Award at ICML Interpretable ML

Our short paper on Interactive Visual Explanations for Deep Drug Repurposing received the Best Paper Award at the ICML Interpretable ML in Healthcare Workshop. Stay tuned for more news on this evolving project.

Jul 2021:   Five presentations at ICML 2021

Jun 2021:   Theory and Evaluation for Explanations

We introduce the first axiomatic framework for theoretically analyzing, evaluating, and comparing GNN explanation methods. We formalize key properties that all methods should satisfy to generate reliable explanations: faithfulness, stability, and fairness.

Jun 2021:   Deep Contextual Learners for Protein Networks

New preprint on contextualized protein embeddings aims to characterize genes with disease-specific interactions and elucidate disease manifestation in specific cell types.

May 2021:   New Paper Accepted at UAI

Our unified framework for fair and stable graph representation learning has just been accepted at UAI. We establish a theoretical connection between counterfactual fairness and stability and use it in a framework that can be used with any GNN to learn fair and stable embeddings.

Apr 2021:   Hot Off the Press: COVID-19 Repurposing in PNAS

Hot off the press! We deployed AI/ML and network medicine algorithms to rank 6,340 drugs for their expected efficacy against SARS-CoV-2. We screened in human cells the top-ranked drugs, identifying six drugs that reduced viral infection, four of which could be repurposed to treat COVID-19.

Apr 2021:   Representation Learning for Biomedical Nets

In our survey on representation learning for biomedical networks we discuss how long-standing principles of network biology and medicine provide the conceptual grounding for representation learning, explain its successes, and inform future advances.

Mar 2021:   Receiving Amazon Research Award

We are excited about receiving Amazon Faculty Research Award on Actionable Graph Learning for Finding Cures for Emerging Diseases. Thank you to Amazon Science for supporting our research.

Mar 2021:   Michelle's Graduate Research Fellowship

Michelle M. Li won the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Award. Congratulations!

Mar 2021:   Hot Off the Press: Multiscale Interactome

Hot off the press! We develop a multiscale interactome approach to explain disease treatments. The approach can predict drug-disease treatments, identify proteins and biological functions related to treatment, and identify genes that alter treatment’s efficacy and adverse reactions.

Mar 2021:   Graph Networks in Computational Biology

We are excited to share slides from our recent lecture on Graph Neural Networks in Computational Biology, which we gave at Stanford ML for Graphs course.

Zitnik Lab  ·  Harvard  ·  Department of Biomedical Informatics