Pioneer Charter School of Science
Everett, MA

Poppy Sephton-Clark
Infectious Disease and Microbiome Program

“I decided to apply to BSSP because of the opportunity to work on a cutting edge infectious disease project,” said Melissa.  During the program, Melissa got that opportunity, as she was able to study the pathogenic fungus C. Gattii.  Certain isolates from this species of fungus have an especially high resistance to antifungal medications, which make them difficult to treat.  Melissa and her partner Isabelle hypothesized that one mechanism of resistance could be through hypermutation, caused by mutations in DNA repair genes. If this hypothesis is correct, it would mean that mutations elsewhere in their genomes go uncorrected, increasing the chances of resistance. Melissa worked with the genomes of over 200 fungal isolates to identify loss-of-function variants in both DNA repair genes and antifungal target genes. Melissa's project has furthered our understanding of antifungal resistance, and future work will confirm whether the isolates harboring these loss-of-function variants show resistance.

“I came into the Broad expecting to work in a wet lab,” said Melissa.  Melissa ended up working in a computational lab by necessity, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  “Learning R programming and becoming more confident in coding was my favorite part of being a Broadie as it allowed me to explore another aspect of science I honestly would not have tried to experience if it were not for this pandemic. With the right amount of dedication, anyone can find success in coding, and I am looking forward to further exploring it in college.”