Leipzig Science Network

The network of Leipzig's research institutions

5th Humboldt Professorship for artificial intelligence

This year, Leipzig University – this time together with the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences – has once again attracted Germany’s most valuable research prize: artificial intelligence (AI) expert Professor Sayan Mukherjee will be the new Alexander von Humboldt Professor in 2022. The mathematician, statistician and computer scientist has made decisive contributions in areas including the emerging field of topological data analysis, which can be used to improve imaging procedures. In Leipzig, Mukherjee’s expertise in analysing biological data will open up new avenues in precision medicine.


Prof. Dr. Sayan Mukherjee, Copyright: Bradley Keith
Prof. Dr. Sayan Mukherjee, Copyright: Bradley Keith

Chair of Leipzig Science Network and rector of Leipzig University Prof. Beate Schücking: “I am delighted that Leipzig University has once again successfully secured an Alexander von Humboldt Professorship – this time together with the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences. Professor Sayan Mukherjee is in great demand as an expert in the field of artificial intelligence, especially topological data analysis. What I find highly interesting are his links to medicine. His research findings can be used to draw more concrete conclusions about how certain diseases develop”.

A human DNA consists of three billion base pairs, some of which can play a role in the onset of various diseases in certain groups and combinations. At the same time, gender, age, heart rate, blood pressure and weight can be related to a person’s overall health. In order to describe and evaluate multidimensional data such as this and, for example, to be able to formulate and test hypotheses about causal links, innovative statistical computing methods are required. Sayan Mukherjee has made outstanding contributions to the mathematical advancement of statistical analysis methods of multidimensional data, which are widely applied in computer science, imaging, and on an interdisciplinary basis, especially in the field of computational biology with the aim of medical advancement. 

New method of analysing the human genome brings international acclaim

Mukherjee was involved in the development of gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA), a statistical method for analysing the human genome in order to determine the biological function of entire groups of genes and their potential role in the development of cancer types. This work has earned him an international reputation. His speciality is topological data analysis, where high-dimensional data is visualised and individual data sets can be inferred from the geometric representation. Mukherjee’s advances in this field have led to the improvement of medical imaging techniques. Furthermore, he has improved statistical error detection for learning algorithms in the field of AI.

Basic research in the fight against disease

In Leipzig, Professor Sayan Mukherjee will continue his basic mathematical and statistical research at the Center for Scalable Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence at Leipzig University and at the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences. Mukherjee is also director of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Bioinformatics (IZBI). His basic research on data analysis and its presentation is expected to bring new insights in the fight against certain diseases in precision medicine.  

Professor Sayan Mukherjee was selected for the Humboldt Professorship and is currently in negotiations with Leipzig University and the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences, which jointly nominated him for the prize. If the negotiations are successful, the prize will be awarded in 2022.

About Professor Mukherjee

Professor Sayan Mukherjee, born in India, received his academic education in the US. In 2001, he received his PhD from MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and initially remained there and at the nearby Broad Institute on a Sloan Postdoctoral Fellowship. He has been at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina since 2004, where he was made Full Professor in 2015. He has been continuously associated with several departments as a professor of mathematics, applied statistics and computer science. In 2011, he spent a year as a visiting scholar in Chicago. In 2008, he received a Young Researcher Award from the International Indian Statistical Association, and in 2018, he became a Fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics. He is also a member of various international professional societies.

Humboldt Professorships for Leipzig
There are currently four Humboldt Professors researching and teaching at Leipzig University: Professor Jens Meiler, Professor Oskar Hallatschek, Professor James Conant and Professor Gregory Ralph Crane.


Alexander von Humboldt Professorship
The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation employs a rigorous selection process to award Germany’s most prestigious international research prize. Its aim is to enable German universities to appoint world-leading researchers who are based abroad and to offer them internationally competitive conditions for pioneering research. The prize money of up to five million euros is intended to finance the first five years in Germany.

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