Milton High School
Infectious Disease and Microbiome Program
Malaria is a common and deadly mosquito-borne disease that affects over 100 nations visited by hundreds of millions of travelers annually. Once malaria has been eradicated in a given country, a nation can apply to the World Health Organization to receive a certification signifying they are malaria-free. The malaria-free certification can be a huge social and economic boon. When a new case of malaria presents in a patient, it is unfortunately often difficult to determine the country of origin of the parasite, making it challenging for countries to obtain malaria-free status. Alex contributed to a machine learning classifier based on the support vector machine algorithm to determine the country of origin of malaria parasites. Using the algorithm, she showed how parasite DNA is different from country to country and from year to year. This information is now helping researchers refine the model to more accurately pinpoint an infection’s origin.
“I feel grateful to have been able to work on a project that has a real world impact,” said Alex. “The tool I tested this summer will help nations know if they have eradicated malaria.” She was humbled that the project that she worked on over the six weeks of BSSP will be used to make a tangible impact on the lives of others. Alex's experience also confirmed her interest in studying biology and pursuing other research opportunities in the future.