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Cambridge Rindge and Latin School
Cambridge, MA

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

Ibta worked very closely this summer with his partner Grace 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.  Ibta 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.  He then identified the biological identity of the two tasks by collecting and interpreting prior knowledge about the genes concentrated around each task.  Further, he 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.

Ibta really enjoyed getting to know a lot of scientists at the Broad this summer.  “The community in the greater Boston area is teeming with so many passionate scientists and people wanting to share their research,” he said. “ The support and being able to talk to the people in the community with all of these unique experiences is one of the best parts of being a Broadie!”  One thing that surprised Ibta was how nonlinear of a process science can be at times: “BSSP has shown me that research isn’t as intimidating as I expected it to be and that it is definitely not as straightforward as is typically expected.”