Today I'm happy to run the third installment in our series on the 2010 Davidson Fellows. Jonathan (Johnny) Li, 17, lives in California. His project involved developing a mathematical model and computer simulation to analyze tumor growth, and was specifically notable because it looked at motility and contact inhibition, which is a mechanism that limits cell growth through pressure from neighboring cells. You can read more about Li here.
Gifted Exchange: How did you come up with your topic?
Li: I sought out mentorship with Prof. John Lowengrub at UC Irvine after taking Partial Differential Equations and became fascinated about how math can be applied in many meaningful ways. I chose the tumor growth topic because both of my maternal grandparents had cancer and I witnessed the suffering and devastation of my family. My grandpa who had stomach cancer was not given chemotherapy due to his old age of 88, while my grandma who had breast cancer went through chemo but it was very painful. So, I wanted to learn more about cancer cells and am hoping to make some contribution in the field.
Gifted Exchange: As you were doing your project, were there any skills or things you'd learned earlier that turned out to be important?
Li: My project is an interdisciplinary research [project] that requires programming skills and knowledge in math such as partial differential equations, physics, and biology. Also, critical reading, writing, and problem solving skills were important for the project.
Gifted Exchange: What was the most fun part of your project?
Li: The most fun part was when first ran my simulation and saw the modeled tumor grow as I had programed it to.
Gifted Exchange: Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
Li: I see myself becoming an MD/PHD or a medical researcher.