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I Am a Researcher

katejacksonsitting.jpgKate Jackson

Major(s): Computer science with a specialization in bioinformatics

College: Seventh

UC San Diego graduation year: 2025

Which research programs/experiences have you been a part of? DBMI (Department of Biomedical Informatics) Summer Internship Program - 2023

Why and how did you decide to get involved in undergraduate research? I wanted to take advantage of the incredible research opportunities available to me at UCSD. My first research experience was with Sun Lab at UCSD under Dr. Xin Sun. I had taken a genetics class (BICD 100) which I really enjoyed and my professor, Dr. Christopher Day, helped me get connected to a research lab that was relevant to my interests. In this position, I performed analysis of single cell RNA sequencing data to investigate genetic markers of Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia. This opportunity had a huge impact on my knowledge and abilities in bioinformatics and inspired me to continue pursuing research.

How did you decide to apply to DBMI? I wanted to get involved in a research project over the summer of 2023 so I researched programs that allowed me to get connected to research mentors. I discovered that the DBMI program was an incredible opportunity to work with faculty mentors at UCSD doing cutting-edge research in the field of biomedical informatics. Reading through the examples of research presented by students in this program from previous years encouraged me to apply.

Explain the research you are/have been doing for your DBMI project. For my summer research project, I worked under the supervision of Dr. Hannah Carter and with the mentorship of graduate students in her lab. My research focused on evaluating how well syngeneic mouse models recapitulate head and neck cancer in humans. I processed bulk RNA-seq data of five mouse cell lines and used R for data analysis and visualization. Since then, I’ve continued to apply my methods to a broader dataset with mouse models of nine different cancers as part of a collaborative effort with the Gutkind Lab and Alexandrov Lab.

What has been the most exciting/interesting thing you've discovered through this research? I am excited that my research contribution is one part of a larger investigation into the ability of mouse models to recapitulate human disease. It’s fascinating to see how individual research papers build upon each other to form a comprehensive narrative that helps us answer complex questions which have real-world implications.

What did you gain from this program/experience? The DBMI program provided me the one-of-a-kind opportunity to learn under the guidance of esteemed faculty mentors such as Dr. Hannah Carter. In just a few months, I gained unparalleled knowledge about the research process and how to analyze transcriptomic data as well as significantly developing my coding skills. Overall, this experience instilled a passion for research in me which has motivated me to pursue graduate school in the future.

What advice would you give to students starting research? I would advise students starting research to take advantage of their experience by challenging themselves whenever possible. Never have an idle moment and always find a new task that allows you to go the extra mile. Additionally, when you feel stuck or lost, use all resources available to you to problem solve and take it as a learning experience.

What are your future goals? I plan to complete a BS/MS in computer science at UCSD. In the future, I hope to apply to graduate school and work towards a PhD in biomedical informatics.