Clare Zhu, a senior at Northwood High School, is one of the forty finalists for the 2016 Intel STS Competition. Known by her peers as quiet, intelligent, and hard-working, Clare is the president of the Math Olympiad Club at Northwood and part of Northwood’s prestigious Science Olympiad team. Clare competed in the prestigious 2016 Intel Science Talent Search competition on March 19, 2016, with her project about a “computational tool that can help detect complex changes in the partial and biased activations of G protein-coupled receptors.”
Starting in sophomore year, Clare began her research at UC San Diego, and then did an internship at the NIH, or the National Institutes of Health, in Baltimore, Maryland. Since her research institute happened to be next to a drug abuse rehabilitation facility, Clare met rehabilitating people in the bus on the way to their respective destinations, and their stories “about their lives and how their treatments have been making their lives better” inspired Clare to work hard on her project.
Clare spent about eight weeks performing research before returning back to Irvine, where she spent about a month writing her paper. While she faced minor difficulties in the beginning, she pulled through and successfully completed her coding and research, discovering that her tool “can likely be used to detect partial activation and biased activation.”
Many drugs on the market currently have multiple side effects because they exhibit non-selective inhibition, which can be harmful and debilitating to a patient’s health. Biased or partial agonists “may [indicate] fewer side effects [for drugs] because they have functional selectivity... you can turn off [on] one part of a receptor...and maintain the function of another.” Using Clare's tool, screening for these partial agonists and biased agonists at the computational level may save much time and many resources in the realm of future clinical trials.
Clare hopes to continue her research after graduation and to help those in need of well-developed drugs for their medical needs.