Hometown: East Brunswick, NJ
What is the purpose of your research?
Our work involves the application of models of evolution to cancer DNA. Models of evolution describe the rate at which nucleotides or amino acids mutate. The model we are focusing on is called SelAC, which our mentors, Dr. Gilchrist and Dr. O'Meara, developed. We are comparing SelAC to other models of evolution to improve its fit to the data. Our goal is to evaluate whether or not SelAC can provide useful insights into the evolution of cancer tumors.
Tell us something about your field of study we would be surprised to know.
When we were researching different forms of cancer, we learned about a transmissible cancer found in Tasmanian devils. It's called devil facial tumor disease, which the devils can pass directly to each other. The most common strain originated in one devil and this same cell line is present today. From a human standpoint this is fascinating because human cancer typically evolves within an individual.
What were your favorite parts of the SRE program?
I enjoyed getting to know everyone in the program! All the undergraduates came in with a different background, which was a new experience for me as I am used to doing research within one department. The mentors were also really nice, sharing their experiences and expertise with us.
What new experiences did you gain that have helped you today?
This program taught me the importance of cooperation. My group members and I all had various strengths, which was important for covering all aspects of our project. Everyone did the different tasks they were best suited for which greatly increased our productivity.
What advice would you give someone who's interested in/curious about participating in the program?
I would definitely look at past project descriptions for an idea of what you will be doing here at NIMBioS. Also, reach out to the mentors and past participants! Everyone here is very friendly and helpful, and would be happy to help you decide if NIMBioS is the right place for you.
Would you recommend our program to others?
Absolutely! This SRE is a great introduction to research in mathematical biology, no matter what your background is. I've learned so much from my mentors and everyone here at NIMBioS in just a few weeks.