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Harvard Medical School Appoints MIE Alumnus William La Cava as Assistant Professor

William La Cava

Dr. William La Cava, a doctoral graduate of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department under advisor Professor Kourosh Danai, has been accepted by the Harvard Medical School as an assistant professor on its faculty. La Cava had been serving as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology since 2016.

As La Cava wrote to Danai, “I wanted to let you know that I just accepted an offer of assistant professor from Harvard Medical School. I'll be working in the Computational Health Informatics Program at Boston Children's Hospital. I'm very excited to start my own lab!”

La Cava joined the faculty at Harvard Medical School in September of last year, but his appointment recently became official. Prior to that, he had been researching machine learning and biomedical informatics at Penn.

As La Cava says about his research, “I am interested in improving the interpretability and fairness of predictive models deployed in healthcare settings. I create and study AI algorithms that can embed these notions when training on health data. My research also looks at methods for automating data science as a whole.”

Basically, La Cava continues, “I would like my computer to do my job for me. That includes tasks like cleaning data, engineering features, writing code, and explaining scientific results. I am interested in applying my work in areas that improve social good.”

At Penn, La Cava was funded by a Pathway to Independence Award from the NIH. “I’m using this award to study methods for interpretable representation learning from electronic health records,” he said at Penn. “I work in the Computational Genetics Lab, which is part of the Institute for Biomedical Informatics. This group is dedicated to identifying the genetic and environmental factors that contribute to human health.”

Before Penn, as La Cava explains, he applied most of his research to wind energy, including identification and control of wind turbine dynamics and gearbox reliability. While studying in the UMass MIE department, La Cava researched in the UMass Wind Energy Center supported by the UMass IGERT Offshore Wind Energy Program.

At the Wind Energy Center, La Cava was interested in dynamics of wind turbines with focus on how wind turbine drivetrains can be optimized for offshore conditions. He was also interested in genetic algorithm approaches to system identification and wind turbine simulation.

Before coming to UMass, La Cava was a research engineer at the National Wind Technology Center in Boulder, Colorado, where he led the modeling team of the Gearbox Reliability Collaborative and conducted drivetrain test campaigns.

La Cava received his M.S. and B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell University. During his M.S. program, he led the mechanical power systems group for the Cornell 100+ MPG team that competed in the Automotive X-Prize.

(August 2022)