Andrew Zhang, Class II, Wins First Place in State Science Fair at MIT

At a Model UN conference last year, Andrew Zhang, Class II, was placed on the World Health Organization Council to discuss the implications of—and possible solutions to—antimicrobial resistance (AMR), or the ability of bacteria to resist antibiotics. A global health crisis, AMR kills millions of people each year. As he learned how dangerous AMR was, Andrew became interested in the possibility of using big data to solve the problem. He approached Dr. Gil Alterovitz from Harvard Medical School about the idea. Dr. Alterovitz serves as Andrew’s advisor for PRIMES, MIT’s after-school research program for high school students. Dr. Alterovitz was enthusiastic about the idea, and so Andrew began an ambitious project which, on May 4, won a first place award at the Massachusetts Science and Engineering Fair (MSEF) at MIT. MSEF is one of the nation’s premier STEM education and competition programs; more than 300 students from all over Massachusetts participated in the fair over the weekend.

Andrew worked under the guidance of Dr. Alterovitz and Robert Moore here at Roxbury Latin. His project, titled “Antimicrobial Resistance Prediction Using Deep Convolutional Neural Networks” used deep learning, a frontier in artificial intelligence, and whole genome sequence (WGS) data to create a framework to predict AMR reliably and quickly. Current prediction methods, which involve growing bacteria in a lab, are very slow. Andrew’s model is able to predict AMR in less than a second with 98% accuracy. Andrew is continuing to refine his model, testing with more antibiotic and bacteria pairs, and submitting his research for publication in a scientific journal.