FIU Ph.D. student awarded innovative TechCongress Fellowship

By Taylor Gutierrez 

Christian Perez is heading to Washington D.C in 2022 to help policy makers understand how to use technology to solve our environment’s greatest issues.

Christian Perez

The associate in FIU’s CREST Center for Aquatic Chemistry and Environment was recently awarded the position of Senior Congressional Innovation Scholar with TechCongress, a program that gives students a chance to serve as technological policy advisors for members of Congress. Perez uses machine learning to study vascular diseases like cerebral amyloid angiopathy and pulmonary arterial hypertension, specifically how they respond genetically to environmental stressors. 

“There is a certain algorithm that allows us to look at certain clinical variables such as a race, gender, ethnicity, exposure to environmental pollutants and how they are connected to genes of interest,” he explained.

Perez credits FIU’s Student Government Association and CREST program for his combined interest in environmental policy. Perez was vice chair for the Graduate Professional Student Committee and realized his passion for solving environmental issues through policy.

“Science is about collaboration and sometimes I think many researchers are stuck in their own field, but CREST has allowed us to reach out to other people and get their perspectives,” Perez described. “With CREST I have been able to understand how researchers do their fieldwork. I can see how data is collected, how we use a central data repository and help progress our data to another level.”

Since technology is the common thread between all different fields of science, Perez hopes students will have more opportunities for machine learning education early on. 

“I want the young generation to have more classes and access to machine learning. This was something I didn’t have while growing up and I learned it in the last few years of my life. It would make a world of a difference if we could use the power of these algorithms more,” he stated. Perez will begin the TechCongress Fellowship program in the spring of next year. He hopes to bring more awareness to the importance of machine learning since it has driven his career when he began as a CREST fellow four years ago.