May 22, 2019

Virginia Ma’19 Presents Summer Research Project at Stony Brook University

Ginnie at the Simons Summer Research Poster Symposium. (Courtesy/Shili Lin)

Last summer, senior Ginnie Ma spent seven weeks at Stony Brook University as a Simons Summer Research Program Fellow, along with 50 other high school students from across the country. Ginnie worked under Dr. Richard Moffitt in Biomedical Informatics, which, as Ginnie says, “. . .involves a lot of different disciplines such as mathematics, statistics, programming, biology, and oftentimes application to medicine.”

On Friday, February 22, Ginnie offered to present her research and experiences to anyone in the upper school community.

Ginnie worked on Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma, the deadliest solid cancer, and while much of the research was focused on the cancer, she says it also involved designing and coding a procedure, running simulations, and working with large data sets from an online depository (The Cancer Genome Atlas).

In her research, Ginnie focused on targeted-treatment-based therapy, a type of treatment for cancer that is personalized to address each person’s specific genome, making it more accurate and effective, in theory, than many other forms of treatment. The issue with this form of treatment is that it is hard to test its accuracy because of the many digital methods needed to obtain the specific genetic information for the targeted-therapy. To combat this, Ginnie designed a “procedure to generate in-silico data,” for which she knew certain things to be consistently true, ”so that it could be used as a benchmarking data set.”

Ginnie says her work at Stony Brook was a life-changing experience that allowed her to pursue her interests in various areas and combine them to work on an interdisciplinary project. In addition, Ginnie recommends the program to others who are willing to push themselves out of their comfort zone to do research in a university setting.