Phillips Academy Andover
Andover, MA

Ran Cui, Nathan Cheng, and Zhi Yu
Medical and Population Genetics Program

A lot of the work that we do as scientists is focused on suggesting correlations, or “links,” between genes and diseases; however, it is often substantially harder to make the jump and suggest that a gene causes a disease, because, in general, correlation does not imply causation. Aleisha’s project was focused on analyzing HbA1C, a biomarker related to the diagnoses of diabetes in humans, using three different methods. By cross-referencing the results from these three different analyses, Aleisha hoped to be able to provide evidence towards a causal relationship between a certain gene and phenotypes related to high HbA1C levels, as well as understand the different biological pathways that contribute to HbA1C variation. Her results were very promising, suggesting that this methodology could be used to discover how a single gene might affect multiple phenotypes, a phenomenon that geneticists refer to as “pleiotropy.” When asked about her favorite part of the summer program, Aleisha responded: “My favorite part of being a Broadie has been seeing that the really intelligent and slightly intimidating people conducting high-level research are humans just like my friends and me. From outside of the scientific community, researchers seemed all-knowing and unreachable, but through this experience, I’ve learnt that they are warm, curious, funny, and fallible. They lean on and learn from each other, admit when they don’t know something, and celebrate their differences. Meeting these people has made the field feel a lot less scary.”