University of Arizona BioInformatics
Three high school students who were in summer internships with the UA Bioinformatics Laboratory will leave high school being published scientific authors.
Usually only college students and graduates have the opportunity to be co-authors in scientific published work, but Liam Wilson, Wesley Chiu and Minsu Pumarejo each were able to complete a summer data science internship in a bioinformatics lab in the Center for Biomedical Informatics and Biostatistics at the University of Arizona.
Dr. Yves Lussier (left) pictured with high school intern Wesley Chiu (right).
Dr. Yves Lussier, director of the Center for Biomedical Informatics and Biostatistics and associate director of informatics at the BIO5 Institute, taught the three high school students in the bioinformatics lab. In just 48 hours, the interns were mentored on how to analyze medical studies and cross-reference their findings.
Wesley Chiu is a senior at Basis Tucson North High School and initially had an interest in biology. After the internship, Chiu said he learned more about databases, querying and their connection to the real world application.
"We have don't a lot of programing in class, but this has really opened my eyes to the possibility of integrating programming to solving problems affecting humanity right now," Chiu said.
Though the internship, the three students participated in a four year computational biology project that analyzed 'junk DNA,' an area of the DNA that does not produce proteins and where diseases can derive from. These regions of the DNA are still not completely understood and account for 97 percent of the human genome.
UA researchers analyzed the shared molecular mechanisms between diseases and found 398 new links among approximately 16,000 potential combinations.
The continuous work of Dr. Li and Dr. Lussier in this study has the potential to contribute new solutions of preventive and treatment plans for diseases, lowering healthcare costs and can decrease mortality rates for patients.