Andrew Zhang, Class II, Heads to 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 March 15, won second place at the Intel-affiliated Massachusetts Region V Science and Engineering Fair hosted by Bridgewater State University. Region V consists of public schools from 75 towns in southeastern Massachusetts as well as all parochial and private schools in the City of Boston. Andrew will go on to compete at the State fair on MIT’s campus in May.

Andrew worked under the guidance of Dr. Alterovitz and Robert Moore here at Roxbury Latin. His project 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. As he prepares for the State fair, Andrew is also working on refining his model, testing with more antibiotic and bacteria pairs, and submitting his research for publication in a scientific journal.