On October 15, Irene Jiang ’24 successfully concluded a yearlong original research project as part of the prestigious MIT PRIMES program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

I’m passionate about computer science because it allows me to engage in creative problem-solving and see tangible, impactful results,” she says. 

In her biology research, Irene harnessed machine learning and computational methods to identify genes associated with tuberculosis, potentially serving as targets for future medications aimed at improving or curing the disease. 

She first took an interest in this subject during an internship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s neurology department in her sophomore year. To gain access to the lab, she had to undergo a tuberculosis test, which ignited her curiosity about the disease.

Her studies exposed the severity of tuberculosis and the fact that her native China ranks among the countries with the highest tuberculosis prevalence. This discovery motivated her to make tuberculosis the central focus of her MIT research.

Using coding techniques, including RNA sequencing and Mendelian randomization, she analyzed complex tuberculosis data sets she sourced from online public databases. She maintained a regular meeting schedule with her mentor, MIT professor Gil Alterovitz, who provided her with feedback and support on her research and paper. 

Irene took the initiative to teach herself new machine-learning skills through online tutorials. Her favorite part of coding was debugging her work and the sense of satisfaction she gained from solving challenging problems.

Irene received feedback on her presentation skills from CA mathematics teacher George Larivee, Computer Science Department head Ben Stumpf ’88, and Science Department head Will Tucker

“When I watched Irene’s presentation, I was genuinely impressed by its clarity and effortless delivery,” Larivee says. “It was as if she had been presenting at conferences for years. I can easily envision Irene making substantial contributions to our understanding of the human body and its response to disease in the years ahead. She has a remarkably bright future ahead of her.”

Irene first learned about the MIT PRIMES program through PRIMES graduate Lisa Liu ’22. Irene now encourages others to apply to PRIMES, hoping to create a legacy of CA students involved in the program. Her goal is to inspire more people, especially women, to engage with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Looking ahead, Irene aspires to continue her work in science and earn a Ph.D. Her favorite aspect of computer science is its collaborative nature: “Science is about building upon the work of others,” she says. Irene hopes to publish her research findings so that others can benefit from her contributions to the field.

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