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The Cambridge School of Weston
Weston, MA

Balint Antal
MIT-Broad Foundry

Molecular cloning is a ubiquitous technique in molecular biology. In this technique, a gene of interest is inserted into a bacterial plasmid, or circularized DNA.  The plasmid is used as a vector to deliver the target gene into a cell, where it can be transcribed and translated.  While this technique is extremely useful and necessary for genomics research, there is fear that a malicious party may clone harmful genes into bacterial plasmids as dispersal vectors. Jose developed a machine learning algorithm to distinguish between natural and synthetic DNA plasmids.  In his initial experiments, Jose's deep neural networks could tell the difference between natural and engineered plasmids with 90% accuracy. Jose will continue to work with his group to improve the algorithm, aiming to hopefully use it in biosecurity applications.

Working at the Broad was Jose’s first experience with research.  Jose really enjoyed “that there was a lot of freedom when it came to working at your speed and also there wasn't a single way to do work.”  Jose enjoyed the remarkable sense of community at the Broad, and felt that everyone he met was kind and eager to help. His summer experience has motivated him even further to continue pursuing his goal of becoming a biomedical engineer.