At countless points during any sort of scientific pursuit, there are many interesting questions that are raised that might pique the interest of those with curious minds. Questions aren't hard to come by, then, but the task becomes this: how might a scientist begin to explore a brand new question that they don't really know anything about? As it turns out, there are many ways to explore scientific data through public and open-source research tools. Over the course of the summer, I found one question in particular that grabbed me: pancreatic cancer—as of today, one of the deadliest, least-understood, and most hopeless cancers that exists—is tied astonishingly tightly to mutations in one particular gene called KRAS. Why pancreatic cancer and that gene? KRAS is expressed more in other types of tissue in the body, but cancers in those tissues are less commonly tied to KRAS mutations. For some reason, despite not seeming to rely heavily on expression of the KRAS gene, mutations in KRAS contribute to over 90% of pancreatic cancers. Why? That's what I set out to understand, and this was the path I followed to explore a question with the whole world of science in front of me.
Seeman, Luke and Justice, Sarah, "Exploring Open Scientific Questions Through Publicly Available Resources" (2021). Faculty-Mentored Undergraduate Scholarship. 4.
Faculty Sponsor: Sarah Justice, PhD