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Dr John Joseph Valletta

MRC Research Fellow

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I am an MRC (Medical Research Council) Research Fellow working on the research project "A systems biology approach to understand immunity and pathogenesis of malaria in children". Specifically, my role in this multi-disciplinary study is to use biological data from a cohort of children in Kenya to develop classification models to predict the likelihood of suffering from a severe malaria attack, during the next transmission season. The objective is to discover and investigate potential biomarkers for predicting a child's likely pattern of development of immunity to malaria.

I am a control engineer by trade, but my main research interest lies at the interface between mathematical modelling and biological systems, which I believe holds the key to next generation healthcare. In the last decade scientists have been overwhelmed with the ever-increasing availability of biological and physiological large datasets. The crux of the problem is how to extract knowledge out of this raw data to help biologists and physicians to enhance their understanding of biological systems, and to eventually improve patient therapy. This field of study is commonly referred to as translational research. I have particular interest in applying machine learning techniques to high-dimensional biological data.

Background

After completing my undergraduate degree in electrical engineering at the University of Malta, I spent a year working in Detroit, USA as a quality liaison engineer. In 2006 I moved to Sheffield, UK to pursue a M.Sc. in control engineering. This was followed by a Ph.D. at the University of Southampton, where I applied mathematical modelling to look at the relationship between habitual physical activity, glycaemic control and the microvasculature in people with type 1 diabetes. In 2011 I joined the McLaren F1 Racing team where I continued to grow an interest in applying machine learning techniques to high-dimensional data. I joined the University of Exeter's Mathematics and the Environment group at the Penryn campus in 2014.  

Research interests

  • Mathematical Modelling of Biological Systems
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Machine Learning
  • Type 1 Diabetes
  • Design of Experiments
  • Predictive Modelling

Qualifications

2011 Ph.D. University of Southampton, UK
2007 M.Sc. Control Systems Engineering, University of Sheffield, UK
2005 B.Eng.(Hons) University of Malta, Malta

Career

2011 - 2013 McLaren F1 Racing Ltd., Woking, UK
2010 - 2011 PhD Plus Research Associate, University of Southampton, UK
2005 - 2006 Methode Electronics Malta Ltd., Malta (Relocated to Detroit, USA)

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