Irene Ong

Credentials: Assistant professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, School of Medicine and Public Health; Joint appointment in Biostatistics and Medical Informatics; Co-Director, Carbone Cancer Center’s Cancer Informatics Shared Resources; Member, Center for Human Genomics and Precision Medicine

Position title: Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Biostatistics and Medical Informatics


Irene Ong finds excitement in teasing out findings from data, as it satisfies her curiosity. To her, it’s like solving a mystery, as data science can provide insights for informed decisions. She uses statistical and machine-learning methods to understand how immune systems develop, how to prevent allergic and infectious diseases, and which drugs to recommend for cancer treatment, all with the goal of keeping people healthy. Her work includes examining the development of healthy immune systems in rural farm and non-farm children, including Amish children, to better understand what farm life can teach us about the development of healthy immune systems. She’s also profiling antibodies specific to the SARS-CoV-2 virus and looking for patterns of COVID-19 responses in rural and urban children.

Irene received an American Family Funding Initiative award to develop a method for learning causal relationships from data. While this method will be applied to discovering the environmental factors that cause or prevent allergic diseases, this work can also be used to incorporate causal learning into other domains.

“Data science can help make the world a better place when it is used for the greater good, such as to provide insights that can help improve healthcare and fight poverty, racism, and other challenges we face as a society.”