Acton-Boxborough Regional High School
Acton, MA

Ran Cui, Nathan Cheng, and Zhi Yu
Medical and Population Genetics Program

A lot of the work that we do as scientists is focused on suggesting correlations, or “links,” between genes and diseases; however, it is often substantially harder to make the jump and suggest that a gene causes a disease, because, in general, correlation does not imply causation. Neha’s project was focused on analyzing several phenotypes related to coronary artery disease using three different methods. By cross-referencing the results from these three different analyses, Neha hoped to be able to provide evidence towards a causal relationship between a certain gene and phenotypes that might eventually cause coronary artery disease, as well as provide evidence toward the existence of different subtypes of coronary artery disease. Her results were very promising, suggesting that this methodology could be used to discover how a single gene might affect multiple phenotypes, a phenomenon that geneticists refer to as “pleiotropy.” Neha decided to apply to BSSP to really understand what the process of research is like and what the application of science looks like in a professional and authentic setting. When asked about her time with BSSP, Neha replied: “My favorite part of the program was kind of the madness of the entire research process. I discovered that it’s nowhere near linear—a breath of fresh air after having the scientific method crammed down our throats in school. Seeing that research requires creativity and imagination, and not exclusively logical and rational, was great.”