Age: 18Munster, IN
Project Title: Targeting Cancer via Signaling Pathways: A Novel Approach to the Discovery of Gene CCDC191's Double-Agent Function using Differential Gene Expression, Heat Map Analyses through AI Deep Learning, and Mathematical Modeling
Early computational biology processes are unable to produce results quickly enough, so many gene functions remain unknown to date. A need exists to analyze gene functions in pathways to meet a changing medical industry of personalized medicine and cancer treatments relative to gene expression patterns. Annie's research discovered the function of gene named CCDC191 whose function had not been fully studied nor defined. Using The Cancer Genome Atlas database (TCGA), she developed a novel bioinformatics approach to determine the function of gene CCDC191 and linked it to a specific aberrant part of the Pi3K pathway in breast cancer. She created a more efficient and replicable methodology which incorporates artificial intelligence deep learning image classification and mathematical modeling to determine gene functions in pathways and cancer connectedness.
Annie Ostojic is a rising Freshman at Stanford University. She is dedicated to applying her STEM knowledge with a personal philosophy to “never stop challenging herself to use her talents and skills to impact positive changes in our world.” For the past ten years, Annie has been conducting STEM research projects that successfully created solutions to real-world problems. She is honored and grateful to have been chosen as a Davidson Fellow Laureate for her bioinformatics cancer research project. She is humbled by Davidson Institute’s award as she knows it provides encouragement and support for completion of her scientific academic endeavors.
Recognizing that many genes remain uncategorized in their functions and that a gap existed in scientific knowledge about the function of gene CCDC191, Annie’s research created a novel approach utilizing artificial intelligence and mathematical modeling to determine gene functions. She utilized this approach to discover gene CCDC191’s unknown double-agent functionality as both a tumor suppressor and oncogene in an aberrant part of the Pi3K pathway for breast cancer patients. Her research is significant in its newly designed process of analyzing bioinformatic heat maps for faster, more reliable gene function determinations in specific biological pathways. In addition, her newly identified double-agent function of CCDC191 presents a promising avenue for continued breast cancer wet-lab research.
Annie conducted her research at home and did not have a mentor. She enthusiastically pursued this bioinformatic research even though it was outside the normal realm of her prior research projects. As a risk-taker, she knew that she would be stepping outside of her engineering-based project comfort zone, and there would be a necessary bioinformatic learning curve prior to implementing her research. She had a server installed at home and approached this challenge eagerly by learning bioinformatic data mining techniques along with R Studio programming through workshops and online university courses. Midway through her research data analysis, Annie experienced a setback as her laptop with flash drives was stolen. All the graphical analyses that she had performed with the data sets from her server were gone, and Annie restarted her data analyses from her server files. She was determined to contribute meaningfully to cancer research using The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) public database because Annie had watched several relatives battle cancer in the past few years.
The connectedness between gene expression in biological pathways and cancer progression is an important analysis for development of personalized medicine to combat diseases. Annie’s approach to incorporate artificial intelligence in a pixel-to-pixel analysis of pathway heat maps provides a creative, fast, and reliable method for gene pathway correlation analyses of many cancer types. This faster bioinformatic analysis can generate gene connectedness as a precursor for wet lab analyses and development of personalized medicine solutions.
Annie’s academic pathway has been unique. As a graduate of a public school district where AP calculus BC was the highest level math offering, no computer programming classes were taught until high school, and no laboratory access was available for scientific research, Annie forged new STEM pathways for future students in the district. She worked with her school administrators to pioneer earlier access to higher level STEM courses by splitting her days between two buildings so that she attended honors high school STEM classes while in middle school and progressed to attending Purdue University engineering STEM courses while in high school. By her senior year in high school, Annie had completed the college calculus sequence through multivariate calculus and differential equations. In addition, she had completed Purdue’s calculus-based engineering physics and conducted biomedical engineering research in their laboratories. With her high school coursework requirements completed one semester early, Annie continued her STEM progression by taking online college linear algebra and discrete mathematics courses. She is appreciative of the collaborative scheduling efforts between educational entities which made it possible for her to obtain challenging STEM educational opportunities. Annie is confident that her academic pathway to date has provided a solid foundation in preparation for an electrical engineering degree with a focus in artificial intelligence computer applications at Stanford University.
Annie enjoys sharing her research and STEM journey with students and educators through workshops or presentations. This passion was recently captured by artist, Amy Wike, through a portrait of Annie in her public speaking role at a podium. Annie has presented to middle school students at the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley as a STEM “Rock Star” in addition to conducting coding workshops with elementary and middle school students. She even spoke to a large audience of one thousand educators last summer at the South Shore Learning Conference! Annie’s accolades for her STEM accomplishments include a Samueli Foundation Award from Broadcom MASTERS in 2015, a Forbes 30 Under 30 list maker in 2018, ISEF Finalist, White House Science Fair Exhibitor, Regeneron STS Finalist, Indiana Governor’s STEM Team Member, U.S. Presidential Scholar, and Coca-Cola Scholar. She received a summer 2020 internship with the Operational Test & Evaluation area of the Department of Defense in the Pentagon as a Teleoperations Specialist. In addition, Annie has been selected as one of three U.S. STEM representatives to attend the Nobel Award Ceremony in Sweden this year with a select group of twenty-five STEM youth worldwide through Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar (SIYSS). She looks forward to attending the Nobel ceremony as well as presenting this bioinformatic cancer research at the youth seminar to an audience of university students, professors, and the Nobel laureates.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Having completed graduate school and working with a dedicated team of scientists creating solutions that help society.
If you could have dinner with the five most interesting people in the world, living or dead, who would they be?
Nikola Tesla, Maya Angelou, Peter Diamandis, Michael Jordan, and Moira Forbes
In the News
MUNSTER TEEN AWARDED $50,000 FOR ADVANCEMENTS IN UNDERSTANDING GENE FUNCTIONS IN BREAST CANCER RESEARCH
Annie Ostojic to be Named a 2020 Davidson Fellow Scholarship Winner
Munster, Ind. – The Davidson Fellows Scholarship Program has announced the 2020 scholarship winners. Among the honorees is 18-year-old Annie Ostojic of Munster. Ostojic won a $50,000 scholarship for her project, Targeting Cancer via Signaling Pathways: A Novel Approach to the Discovery of Gene CCDC191's Double-Agent Function using Differential Gene Expression, Heat Map Analyses through AI Deep Learning, and Mathematical Modeling. She is one of only 20 students across the country to be recognized as a scholarship winner.
“I am honored and grateful to have been chosen as a Davidson Fellow Laureate for my bioinformatics cancer research project,” said Ostojic. “I am humbled by Davidson Institute’s award as I know it provides encouragement and support for completion of my scientific academic endeavors.”
Ostojic’s research created a novel approach utilizing artificial intelligence and mathematical modeling to determine gene functions, leading to her discovery of gene CCDC191’s unknown double-agent functionality as both a tumor suppressor and oncogene in an aberrant part of the Pi3K pathway for breast cancer patients. Her research is significant in its newly designed process of analyzing bioinformatic heat maps for faster, more reliable gene function determinations in specific biological pathways.
Ostojic will be attending Stanford University in the fall where she hopes to continue developing her passion for STEM and dedicate her career to creating solutions that help society.
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The following disclosure is provided pursuant to Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) 598.1305:The Davidson Institute for Talent Development is a Nevada non-profit corporation which is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)3 tax-exempt private operating foundation. We are dedicated to supporting the intellectual and social development of profoundly gifted students age 18 and under through a variety of programs. Contributions are tax deductible.
Profoundly gifted students are those who score in the 99.9th percentile on IQ and achievement tests. Read more about this population in this article.