Interview with Paul Bertin, PhD student at Mila

Paul Bertin is a 5th year PhD student in Yoshua Bengio’s lab @Mila (Montréal), and focuses his thesis on experimental design approaches for cell based assays. In October 2023, he vsited the Computational Health Center at Helmholtz Munich for a research stay in the group of Fabian Theis, one of the partnering teams of the Helmholtz International Lab Causal Cell Dynamics (CCD).

How did this scientific stay impact your PhD project?

This scientific stay allowed me to deepen my knowledge in single cell computational methodologies, which has been especially useful for my ongoing project involving the training of a GRN-based model of cell dynamics using single-cell data. I was fortunate to collaborate with Ken and Alejandro, two PhD students from the lab.


What are the things you like the most about your stay at Helmholtz Munich?

I especially enjoyed the warm and scientifically stimulating atmosphere among the students. I really liked discussing research projects, the challenges and advances of single-cell technology, and learning about the variety of methods and data modalities people are working with at the CHC.


What will you take back from your scientific stay here?

Thanks to many discussions and presentations within the group, I got to learn about a diverse range of biological problems that can be addressed via single-cell analysis. In particular, many students are collaborating with biologists, and are using computational methods to answer a specific biological, or medical question raised by their collaborator. This showed me that machine learning methods can have a real impact on biological research.


How will the project you started there continue since you're back?

We have kept working on the project together with Alejandro and Ken, and are planning to submit to a journal in the next few months.


What would you recommend to other PhD students who want to visit Helmholtz Munich and/or Helmholtz AI?

If you are interested in better understanding how machine learning can assist single-cell biology in practice, Helmholtz Munich is a great place to visit! And the students there are very nice, so you will make some friends along the way.


Any final words?

You should try Kaiserschmarrn (a Bavarian dessert) at least once, it is absolutely delicious!