Middlesex School
Concord, MA

Aleks Goeva and Miri Adler
Stanley Center for Psychiatric Disease | Food Allergy Science Initiative

“I started learning computer science my sophomore year of high school, and now it’s my favorite science!  I decided to apply to BSSP because it seemed like a supportive environment for my first research experience.”  Grace worked very closely this summer with her partner Ibta to apply a theory originating from economics, called Pareto optimality, which has recently found applications to single cell genomics.  According to Pareto optimality, cells in tissues that need to perform multiple tasks will divide their labor and might be specialists at a single task, or generalists - performing well at multiple tasks.  Grace applied this theory to study neurons in the cerebellum, and determined from gene expression data alone that these cells span a continuum between two tasks.  She then identified the biological identity of the two tasks by collecting and interpreting prior knowledge about the genes concentrated around each task.  Further, she demonstrated that the cells were located in different parts of the cerebellum depending on whether they specialized in Task 1, specialized in Task 2, or were generalists, located along the continuum between them.  Ultimately, this research will help us better understand how neurons optimally divide labor in a complex tissue like the brain and what spatial cues might be responsible for their function.

“My favorite part about being a Broadie was getting to know the community,” said Grace. “I loved getting to know not only my mentors, but their other lab members too. My mentors invited me and Ibta to lab game nights, and organized weekly meetings with the lab to discuss some articles about what it’s like being a scientist. It is really inspiring to be around such kind and humble people.”