Oct. 27, 2021

Doctor sees growing role for advanced computer tools in health care

2021 Top 40 Under 40: Dr. Nils Daniel Forkert, PhD
Nils Daniel Forkert
Nils Daniel Forkert Jared Sych, Avenue magazine

In a nutshell, the research conducted by Dr. Nils Daniel Forkert, PhD, lies at the intersection of computer science and medicine. By developing new software, computer algorithms and machine-learning models, the 37-year-old’s findings help doctors select treatments with more precision, diagnose with more accuracy and predict diseases before they develop.

Dr. Forkert is an associate professor in the departments of Radiology, Clinical Neurosciences, and Electrical and Software Engineering at the University of Calgary, and program director, Child Health Data Science Program, at the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute.

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?

I am very proud to have a large research lab with many great trainees and students who I can mentor to become the next generation of data scientists.

What do you wish more people understood about machine learning?

Machine learning is not magic. It is only as good as the data, and we are not able to build good models based on bad data. Also, machine learning will not replace physicians any time soon. It will, however, replace physicians who are not using advanced computer tools based on machine learning.

How has COVID-19 impacted your day-to-day work?

Most of our work only involves computers so that COVID did not impact our research too much aside from the suboptimal interactions that occur on a daily basis.

What is the most satisfying thing about your job?

Mentoring and supervising my students and trainees and being able to develop software tools that can help patients in future.

If you were to go back to school, what would you take?

I would choose computer science again.

What do you wish you knew more about?

Too many things. It is important to stay curious.

Any advice for students or new grads?

Grad school is hard work but should also be fun.

Why is mentorship important?

Without my mentors, I would not be where I am. Mentorship should always try to bring out the best in people without forgetting the human side.

When you are not working, what do you do? 

Running, hiking, reading books.

What are you reading these days?

Adventures of a Curious Character by Richard Feynman.


With files from Avenue Magazine.