Lexington High School
Lexington, MA

Sean Misek
Cancer Program

Kira’s interest in science came from an interest in understanding the molecular mechanisms that enable life. “I found it fascinating that there could be hidden mechanisms behind what I observed in my everyday life, as well as discoveries waiting to be made.” In search for answers to some of her questions as well as wanting to meet other people that shared the same inquiries, Kira applied to the BSSP. As part of the BSSP, Kira worked with her partner Antonio trying to develop tools to study pediatric low-grade glioma (pLGG), a type of brain cancer. Cancer is characterized by hijacking different pathways involved in regulating cellular growth, such as the MAPK pathway. pLGGs often hijack the MAPK pathway by mutating a gene called BRAF. These mutations cause BRAF to always be active, leading to constitutive activation of the MAPK pathway. Interestingly, many patients with pLGG differ in the growth dynamics the tumor displays. To understand the molecular mechanisms that enable these different tumor growth rates, Kira sought out to test different degron-based BRAF expression systems to use as a model to study BRAF in pLGG. Degron systems allow scientists to control the protein levels of a desired protein by addition of a small molecule, that when added, leads to the degradation of the protein fused to the degron tag. Through her work, Kira showed that the different degron systems can be expressed in human neural stem cells. Additionally, she showed these fusions were functional and able to be degraded. Kira’s time at the Broad has made her realize how she can leverage her newly gained knowledge with her mathematical skills. “Having worked on a project about pediatric low-grade gliomas, I can see myself combining my mathematical/computational skills with what I have learned in the wet lab to conduct future research that could similarly serve to help others.” Not only that, but Kira was also able to establish ties to her BSSP cohort that will transcend the end of the program. Kira emphasizes that “BSSP has truly been an unforgettable experience!”