Westborough High School
Westborough, MA

Kevin Dong, Vivian Hecht, and Noam Shoresh
Epigenomics Program

In order to better understand disease, biologists must conduct experiments on cells; however, harvesting tissue directly from patients is extremely invasive and expensive.  For this reason, lab-grown cell lines made from stem cells can be an extraordinarily valuable research tool.  These cell lines do not have any inherent transferability to real therapeutic treatments on real patients until it is established that the cell lines behave similarly to real tissue samples. In particular, it is not enough to know whether or not the genomes of these cell types are similar; rather, care must be taken to ensure that the epigenomes of these cell types are similar. Viggy worked closely with his partner Puloma to develop a method to visualize correlations between histone modification sequencing data in muscular stem cells and cardiovascular tissue.  Viggy found strong correlations between certain tissues and the new proposed cell line, meaning that this research tool is one step closer to being able to be used to test therapeutic treatments for heart disease. 

Viggy initially got into science through TV shows like NOVA and MythBusters.  “I tied science with curiosity, problem-solving, and exploration,” he said. Upon starting to work at the Broad, he was afraid that working with real scientists would be intimidating.  Fortunately, according to Viggy, “That wasn’t the case at all. Everyone I met was happy to talk about their work and was extremely friendly.”  Viggy initially planned to come to the Broad to work in a wet lab, but due to the COVID-19, was forced to transition into a computational project at the last minute.  “I’m extremely grateful that happened.  BSSP has certainly had an influence on my career aspirations, and has made me fall in love with research!”  Viggy intends to pursue research in computational biology, bioinformatics, or biotechnology in college and beyond.