Life Sciences

Ground Truth and Biology?

Director of AI + Life Sciences

Expeditions in Experiential AI Seminar Series

As a kick-off to our spring Expeditions in Experiential AI seminar series, Sam Scarpino delivered “Ground Truth and Biology?” exploring how experiential AI can advance life sciences.

About the talk:

Machine learning and artificial intelligence rely on labeled data. These labels convey a sense that a “ground truth” exists, but in biology this is rarely the case. In this talk, Sam Scarpino discussed how the complexity of biological systems results in ground truths that are context-dependent and evolving. He provided specific examples from genomics, clinical medicine, and infectious diseases to demonstrate the challenges. Finally, Scarpino discussed paths forward and the role of experiential models for advancing AI in the life sciences.

Flip through Sam’s slides:


Samuel V. Scarpino, PhD, is the Director of AI + Life Sciences at the Institute for Experiential AI at Northeastern University and a Professor of the Practice in Health and Computer Sciences. He holds appointments in the Institute for Experiential AI and the Network Science, Global Resilience, and Roux Institutes. In recognition for his contributions to complex systems science, he was named a fellow of the ISI Foundation in 2017, an external Professor at the Santa Fe Institute in 2020, and an external faculty member at the Vermont Complex System Center in 2021.

Prior to joining Northeastern, Scarpino was the Vice President of Pathogen Surveillance at The Rockefeller Foundation, Chief Strategy Officer at Dharma Platform (a social impact, technology startup), and co-founded a data science initiative called, which was backed by Google and The Rockefeller Foundation. Outside of these roles, he has over 15 years of experience translating research into decision support and data science/AI tools across diverse sectors from public health and clinical medicine to real estate and energy.

Learn more about Sam Scarpino.

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