Name of research project:A Computational Model for Telomere Dynamics and Cell Carcinogenesis.
Name of faculty research mentor: Narendra Jaggi
Name of research grant: State Farm Summer Research Fellowship '19
Research Summary: Telomeres are caps at the end of our DNA that protect our chromosomes’ genetic information,
and they have been shown to be tightly linked to aging and cancer. This summer I have
created a computational model that successfully encapsulates telomere dynamics (the
shortening or lengthening of telomeres over time) and cell carcinogenesis (the transformation
from a normal cell to a cancerous cell). I have been working with my mentor, Narendra
Jaggi, reviewing state-of-the-art research in Computational Biophysics to create our
model that incorporates the latest understanding of the field and attempts to extend
it. What initially started as a fun computational project, has evolved into a robust
computational model that can help us qualitatively understand multistage cancer progression.
How has Illinois Wesleyan prepared you for conducting research?
I am a firm believer that creativity and innovation stem from lateral thinking, and
Illinois Wesleyan has provided me with the right ecosystem to harness it. I am a Computer
Science and Physics major that is currently doing research in Biology, a seemingly
orthogonal field. The truth of the matter is that the tools that Computer Science
and Physics have given me allow me to view problems within the field through a completely
different lens. Dr. Jaggi, a physics professor, also enjoys tackling problems out
of his comfort zone, and his attitude towards problem-solving has shown me the value
of getting the ball rolling and making progress instead of getting hung up on details.
What do you hope to gain from this experience as you look forward to your future?
During my summer research, I have had the opportunity to learn how to dive deeply
into one subject matter, but also laterally across several fields. This approach of
tackling research's multidimensional space will definitely prove to be an invaluable
asset in graduate school and in any personal venture.
What’s been your favorite part of conducting research so far?
My favorite part of conducting research is reading about any thought-provoking idea
or interesting innovation at night, and being able to share them with my mentor the
next day. This is followed by a fun and intellectually stimulating conversation that
sometimes may or may not lead to progress in our research, but never ceases to be
In your opinion, why is it important for undergraduate students to participate in
I believe that undergraduate research is the bridge that connects the classroom to
the real world. Being able to visualize how the tools you have been equipped with
through your academic career, can be applied to real life problems is a fundamental
motivator in my academic career. Additionally, conducting research has shown me how
vast a field can be, but the fact that I am working on the shoulders of giants and
have been able to extend their work has been a tremendous confidence booster!