Everett High School
Everett, MA

Angela Early and Emily LaVerriere
Infectious Disease and Microbiome Program

Malaria is a disease that threatens large portions of the world on a daily basis. Breetika’s project involved investigating why certain individuals in the country of Mali develop sterile immunity to some specific malaria parasites but not to others. In particular, Breetika analyzed allele frequency variants of two malaria parasite genes, AMA1 and TRAP, that act as antigens in humans, generating the human immune response against the parasite. Working with her partner Alex, Breetika found that most of the variants that she analyzed occurred rarely, suggesting that natural selection was pushing microevolution of these genes towards new allele combinations that could hide from  the human immune system’s full response. Breetika decided to apply to BSSP because "working hands-on with a mentor on biomedical research was a great opportunity to learn more about what a career in research would look like. BSSP also gave a great opportunity to learn more about possible careers in biomedical research and meet real-life professionals in those areas." About her experience, Breetika noted that “this summer has increased my enthusiasm and confidence in myself to pursue a future career in science. Working in the Neafsey lab this summer and seeing the immense collaboration involved was something I didn’t expect. Seeing the scientists and researchers creating an open environment for new ideas increased my excitement to someday become a scientist myself.”