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Kansas BioGENEius Winner Luann Jung on her project inspiration, scientific trends and future career plans

Posted By Alex Erwin, Thursday, May 24, 2018

Luann Jung is the winner of the 2018 Kansas BioGENEius Challenge, the premier competition for regional high school students conducting research in biotechnology. Luann will advance to Boston, MA, to compete against other peers in the International BioGENEius Challenge at the BIO International Convention on June 4 – 7, 2018. Her research project, Genomic Indicators for Type II Diabetes, describes novel computational methods that result in faster and more accurate analysis of genetic variants associated with type 2 diabetes. Luann just graduated from Manhattan High School and is attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall where she plans to study computer and data science.


What was the inspiration for your current project?
When I was eight years old, my grandmother passed away after a stroke left the right side of her body paralyzed. The underlying contributor? Type 2 diabetes. Since then, I’d always wondered if there was more that could’ve been done to mitigate the situation. Worldwide, 3.4 million people die due to diabetes annually. Given that type 2 diabetes results from both environmental and genetic factors, early indicators of diabetes development can help individuals implement preventative measures. With this research, I aimed to try to tackle type 2 diabetes by understanding its environmental and genetic sources to improve early diabetes diagnosis and prediction.

 The BIO Convention is one of the largest scientifically focused gatherings in the world with tons of industry professionals. Are there any specific types/companies you’re hoping to speak with?
The amazing diversity of industry professionals at the BIO Convention is so exciting. I look forward to speaking with a variety of bioinformatics companies. In addition, I also want to gain exposure to other types of companies so that I can better understand the different areas of focus in the industry today. I hope to gain insight into how these all of companies are combining technology with bio fields to make breakthroughs.

 What current scientific trends do you find fascinating?
I find scientific trends regarding artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data immensely interesting. Technology giants such as Google, Amazon, and Twitter encompass vast amounts of user-generated data (posts, reviews, websites, etc), while organizations like the NIH possess innumerable datasets of medical data. There are so many opportunities to take advantage of these data for the improvement of society. From the improvement of convolutional deep neural networks to the development of hardware and software that augment the human brain itself, scientific research is accelerating in ways that are immeasurably exciting. I’m eager to explore and contribute to such trends.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
In the future, I envision myself being an expert in the multidisciplinary fields of artificial intelligence and machine learning. These topics, when tied with other areas, have the potential to revolutionize everyday usage of data, the internet, and software. Currently, our society generates so much data every day, but the methods to analyze this data for the common good are not easily accessible to the public. My goal is to create machine learning and data mining tools that both customers and businesses can use. By combining software systems knowledge and training in big data analysis, I aim to develop a platform for these tools that will make them readily available to the public. In doing so, I hope to make an impact in the technological world while pursuing topics that I am passionate about.

The Kansas BioGENEius Challenge is administered by BioKansas and sponsored this year by KCALSI, MilliporeSigma, Merck Animal Health, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, KCAS, Missouri Valley PDA, Arvest Bank, and Aratana Therapeutics.

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