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Brockton High School
Brockton, MA

Poppy Sephton-Clark
Infectious Disease and Microbiome Program

“I’ve always been curious about how life works,” said Isabelle.  That curiosity ultimately led to Isabelle applying to BSSP, where she worked on studying pathogenic fungi.  Certain fungi have an especially high resistance to antifungal medications, which make them difficult to treat. Isabelle and her partner Melissa hypothesized that these antifungal-resistant organisms gained resistance because they are hypermutators - organisms with significantly more mutations in their genome than the average organism. Isabelle worked with over 200 fungal isolates from five different lineages. She found that two of the isolates, closely related in the phylogeny she produced, were predicted to show a hypermutator phenotype. By looking directly at DNA sequencing data, Isabelle confirmed that these two isolates did indeed have many, many more mutations than other isolates, meaning they are, in fact, hypermutators. Isabelle’s project has contributed to the formation of a plausible explanation for antifungal resistance, and future work will test levels of resistance of the identified hypermutators.

“My favorite part about being a Broadie is the community it strives to create and maintain between all its employees,” said Isabelle, as she reflected on her summer experience. “Working at the Broad confirmed to me that doing research is what I want to pursue into college and beyond. Working in the Infectious Disease and Microbiome Program sparked an interest in me of how certain pathogens / diseases vary from patient to patient, so it is a definite possibility that I would have never considered if I didn’t work at the Broad this summer.”