Mai Ha Vu talks about her postdoctoral project of applying linguistics to solving questions in immunology.
When you get a virus, your immune system almost immediately mounts an immune response against the virus. This is possible because your body has myriads of highly diverse immune receptors that are capable of recognizing almost any foreign molecule (antigen). As of now, the 'grammar' of these immune receptors is still unknown, that is we lack precise mapping rules between immune receptors and antigens.
Immunolingo is an interdisciplinary project between life sciences, informatics, statistics and linguistics with the goal of learning these mapping rules. In this talk, I will talk about the challenges we face when applying linguistics to non-language data, a methodological framework we propose for using linguistic and natural language processing methods on biological data, and our next steps forward.