Milton High School
Milton, MA

Adam Rubin
Klarman Cell Observatory

This summer, working with her partner Derek, Sneha studied the inner workings of the human immune system. Scientists have recently become interested in tissue-resident immune cells, or immune cells that live inside organ systems (rather than just generally in the bloodstream). These immune cells are extremely important for human survivability, as they are the first line of defense against incoming infectious disease, and may additionally be leveraged via immunotherapy to target tissue-bound cancerous tumor cells. These cells had previously been studied using immunofluorescence microscopy, a technique that lets specific biomarkers on the surfaces of specific types of immune cells “light up” using different colored fluorescent dyes. Using several tools from machine learning such as clustering and principal component analysis, Sneha analyzed several immunofluorescence microscopy images from colorectal tissue in two cancer patients, one who died fairly quickly, and another who survived a longer time, in order to determine whether or not different organization of tissue-resident immune cells led to different cancer prognosis. She found that they were organized quite differently, suggesting that the organization of immune cells in cancer tissue may play a role in survival. “I applied to BSSP because the program is centered on the intersection of two of my interests: biology and computer science. Before BSSP, I could only explore these topics separately, so I was really excited to apply them together in a real research experience,” said Sneha. Her summer experience cemented her decision to pursue computational biology in college.