Hannah Davis uses bioinformatics to study the fundamental causes of Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes is important to Hannah and her family.  Determined to find the root cause, she turned to bioinformatics (a big data analysis toolset that combines biology with computer science and statistics.) Hannah participated in a 2019/20 pilot Science Coach conducted with Pine Biotech designed to effectively teach high school students to use and understand how to apply the knowledge to a big data research project of their own choosing.  

Hannah became the star student of this program.  She basically knew nothing about bioinformatics in August 2019, was functionally using the tools by October 2019, created her own project and figured out how to run the ‘pipelines” (that is bioinformatics terminology for doing a trial of the data analysis) and made some amazing discoveries by January 2020 and now has bioinformatics in her career pathway! 

Hannah performed months of research and ultimately hypothesized that dual expressing cells are the fundamental factor that causes Type 1 Diabetes (T1D). To identify cell type and pathway of differentiation, cDNA of cells from public genomic data was compared using RNA-seq bioinformatic analysis. Gene expression analysis supported the idea that the DE cell is a B cell mimicking NKT cell that is equipped with a BCR for insulin binding, which triggers cytotoxicity. The cell typing and differentiation pathway of the DE cell potentially eliminates outside T cell involvement in islet destruction and defines the DE cell as the primary cause of disease. Furthermore, NK cell typing of the DE cell provides promising opportunities for early detection, prevention, and reversion methods for T1D.

Among Hannah's many high school accomplishments, this year she won First Place at SEMO Regional Science Fair in category of Physics, The Society for In Vitro Biology Certificate, United States Air Force Certificate of Achievement, The Yale Science and Engineering Award, First Place and Best in Category at SEMO Regional Science Fair in category of Biomedical Science, 2nd Overall and Top Senior project at SEMO fair, International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) Observer 2019, ISEF Finalist 2020, Missouri Junior Academy of Science Highly Superior Award and advanced to State two years in a row, with the opportunity to present research to the Director of the US Trademark and Patent Office, and she is in the process of having her research peer-reviewed for publishing.

One of Hannah's favorite memories was going to Phoenix, AZ for the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). "ISEF was an amazing experience that I will never forget. I am disappointed that this year’s ISEF in California was cancelled, but I’m glad that I was able to experience it once".

In the fall, Hannah plans to attend Washington University in St. Louis to major in Biology while following the Pre-Med path in order to eventually become a medical researcher.