By Renner Kwittken
“Jamie has been an inspiration to future lab researchers in our program. She has taught everyone that no matter what you expect your study to be, never make assumptions that it will turn out that way. Be prepared to meet challenges, know your topic, and never stop working so that you are ready for anything.” These are some kind words from Mrs. Greenwald, one of Jamie Begleiter’s Authentic Science Research teachers.
Jamie is studying Alopecia, which is an autoimmune hair loss disease. She was drawn to this topic by her personal experience with the disease. In fifth grade, Jamie was diagnosed with it and her doctors were not able to give her definitive answers about the efficacy of her treatment options and the possibility of relapses.The Authentic Science Research Program presented itself to Jamie as an opportunity to study this disease in depth and find some answers for herself. But her project wasn’t easy; Jamie was met with numerous challenges which forced her to adapt. Her first challenge was dealing with an unresponsive mentor. While everyone was finalizing their projects with their mentors, Jamie was struggling to get her mentor to give her a clue of what her project would be. Jamie, however, “faced this challenge with grace and maturity,” according to Mrs. Greenwald. Fortunately, Jamie eventually received her responses in June of junior year and worked with her mentor at the Columbia University Medical Center. Her mentor is Dr. James C. Chen, who is a postdoc at Columbia. His work is mainly computational and done on a computer.
Her troubles didn’t end there. When she arrived at her lab, she had to shift her focus dramatically to a “computational project [using] gene expression profiles of alopecia patients and generate heat maps to analyze,” according to Jamie. A heat map is a graphical representation of data, in this case gene expression, represented by different colors in a matrix. She had to learn something completely new in her topic, and she did very well. Jamie described working at Columbia Medical center as a unique experience. She had to display a lot of independence and figure out problems on her own. In the end she enjoyed her experiences while working there, met many interesting people, learned a lot about her topic, as well as how to work well with others.
Despite her challenges, she produced an amazing piece of research. Recently Jamie came in fourth as a speaker for the computer science and bioinformatics room at JSHS. This enabled her to advance to the JSHS state competition, which took place earlier this month. Jamie has grown in many ways throughout the duration of her time in the program. She explains, “[Science Research] has helped my writing skills, speaking skills, and time management skills.” Her words to incoming Science Research students: “study something you love and truly enjoy.”