Carnegie Mellon University

zachary chase lipton

April 18, 2019

Tepper School Professor Receives Amazon Web Services Award

Zachary Chase Lipton, Assistant Professor of Operations Research and Machine Learning, was awarded the Amazon Web Services Machine Learning Research Award for his work to improve the accuracy of diagnosis of breast cancer.

The AWS Machine Learning Research Award funds universities, faculty, PhD students and postdoctorates to develop machine learning algorithms, publications and source code across various focus areas. Lipton will receive a $100,000 gift and 50,000 in compute credits as part of his award. 

Lipton’s research seeks to look at various forms of diverse data to make accurate predictions and diagnoses. The work, Lipton says, is not to replace radiologists, but to enhance and make humans more efficient.

“Our work is aimed at the paraclinical setting, where we hope to improve the quality of radiologist training by producing models that not only predict cancers but also provide insights that help doctors to improve their own performance,” Lipton said.

Additionally, Lipton has a slew of other questions he’s interested in researching, like how often should patients be screened and the impact of early detection. 

“It would seem that we would need answers to these fundamental questions to justify any policy, but these are actually open questions, and the subject of raging debates,” said Lipton.

“We’re just scratching the surface of how machine learning can improve health care delivery at this point, and Zack is an emerging leader in this important work,” said Alan Scheller-Wolf, Richard M. Cyert Professor of Operations Management and Senior Associate Dean of Faculty and Research. “It’s a great honor that AWS will be supporting his efforts to use data science to transform health care, and ultimately people’s lives.”

Lipton sees the AWS award as a springboard to launch a new project that, if successful, could eventually blossom into a broader initiative with national support. 

“It's always a flattering demonstration of confidence when federal agencies or corporate research arms find your track record and research vision to stand out for this kind of support and recognition,” Lipton said. “Second, and more concretely, this support provides the financial means to launch a new project that can hopefully mature over the coming months and years and potentially mature into a federally-backed project.” 

Before joining the Tepper School, Lipton was a scientist at Amazon AI, where he helped to develop some of the machine learning tools and platforms offered by AWS. His latest research includes working with the Cleveland Clinic on a project to improve in vitro fertility outcomes and collaborators at UPMC. 

“Improving breast cancer radiologists’ cancer detection rates could have a substantial impact on patient care,” said Lipton. “In the process, we expect to learn a lot, both about computer vision and human-computer interaction.”