Needham High School
Klarman Cell Observatory
“My interest in science definitely started from watching television shows like Cyberchase, Sid the Science Kid and The Magic School Bus,” said Derek. This summer, working with his partner Sneha, Derek pursued his childhood dreams and studied the inner workings of the human immune system. Scientists have recently become interested in tissue-resident immune cells, or immune cells that live inside organ systems (rather than just generally in the bloodstream). These immune cells are extremely important for human health, as they are the first line of defense against incoming infectious disease, and may additionally be leveraged via immunotherapy to target tissue-bound cancerous tumor cells. These cells had previously been studied using immunofluorescence microscopy, a technique that lets specific biomarkers on the surfaces of specific types of immune cells “light up” using different colored fluorescent dyes. Using several tools from machine learning such as clustering and principal component analysis, Derek analyzed several immunofluorescence microscopy images from tonsil and colon tissue in order to determine whether or not these tissue-resident immune cells had different structure, or organization, between the different tissue types. He found that they were organized quite differently, though more analysis is necessary to think more about what this might mean. “Doing my computational-based project at BSSP has really cemented my interest in computer science and machine learning in the future, and has also inspired me to look more into life sciences like biology,” Derek stated.