January 25, 2023
BASIS Independent Silicon Valley student Indeever M., Class of 2023, has become the first person in the world to sequence the genome of the freshwater angelfish!
Indeever sequenced the genome of his pet angelfish Calvin after it died in March this past year. “Although my fish was dead, I wanted to preserve it forever,” he says. “So I decided to sequence the genome of the angelfish with the hopes that I could contribute that information to the scientific community, and so that the angelfish could one day be used as a model organism for biological research!”
You can view his sequence data on this public database and his research paper describing his work was published here.
Indeever has also been awarded a 2022 Davidson Fellowship for his research on CRISPR viral therapies. Recognized by Forbes as “one of the nation’s most prestigious undergraduate scholarships,” the Fellows scholarship is one of “The 10 Biggest Scholarships in the World” by TheBestColleges.org and one of “7 Prestigious Undergrad Scholarships” in U.S. News & World Report.
You can view his research on CRISPR viral therapies here.
We sat down with Indeever to learn more about his research and experience with these projects.
Congratulations on these amazing accomplishments! What made you start this CRISPR project?
With the ongoing pandemic, I wanted to conduct novel research to find a way to better protect immunocompromised people from viral infections. I was also incredibly excited to develop mastery over various wet bench techniques. That’s how this project took off in mid-2021.
Can you give a general description of your project?
With the COVID-19 pandemic having taken the world by storm, one reliable way to protect ourselves from a viral infection is by getting vaccinated. However, vaccines have limited efficacy in immunocompromised people as their bodies cannot mount a strong response to the vaccination and develop antibodies. A complement to vaccinations is necessary to thoroughly protect the immunocompromised from viral infections, and I turned to bacteria for a solution.
In my current work, I hypothesized that the bacterial CRISPR-Ca9 system, which protects bacteria from viral infections, could be repurposed to function as an intracellular defense mechanism for human cells. After genetically engineering human cells to express Cas9, I introduced viral DNA into the cells and found that the Cas9 enzyme significantly reduced the expression of the viral DNA, effectively protecting the cell from infection.
Where were you able to complete this project?
I conducted my self-directed research at BioCurious, a local community biology lab in Santa Clara.
Sounds amazing! What gave you the confidence to do all that on your own?
I joined BISV in Grade 6, and my favorite subject has always been biology. Thanks to BISV’s rigorous curriculum, I greatly enjoyed all the STEM exposure I had in biology, chemistry, and physics.
In Grade 11, I made sure to take the Biotechnology elective with Dr. Allendoefer. She helped me a lot outside of class. Her class and her willingness to always discuss my ideas are what really ignited my interest in CRISPR technology.
How did you get involved with the Davidson Fellowship?
I heard about the fellowship from a family friend. The Davidson Institute looks for significant projects that are meaningful and have the potential to make a positive contribution to society. I submitted a research paper that was reviewed by a panel of experts. By the way, they accept non-stem projects as well. My submission was 34 pages long! They judged the research work on the following criteria – Scientific rigor, societal impact, and also the applicant’s understanding of the specific domain.
What advice would you give to future students who are interested in pursuing a project outside of school?
Keep learning about the world you live in, identify challenges that afflict people, and try to develop solutions through your research. Make sure to talk to the talented teachers at BISV and learn from their wisdom and experiences. Find what you’re interested in and pursue it. Don’t be afraid of what other people think or even what the results will be.
BASIS Independent Silicon Valley is a TK – Grade 12 private school, providing students an internationally benchmarked liberal arts and sciences curriculum, with advanced STEM offerings.