Student Profile



Lauren Mak

CBM makes it easy to lose yourself in the wonderful complexities of research and immerse yourself in the fantastic culture of New York City.
The Tri-I Computational Biology and Medicine Program makes it easy to lose yourself in the wonderful complexities of research and immerse yourself in the fantastic culture of New York City. From my apartment, I can see midtown Manhattan. It’s a view I’d like to call ‘budget Gossip Girl chic’. In a city of more than 8 million residents, I have found not only scientific challenges that inspire me, but communities of amazing people, from entrepreneurs to musicians to boxers, that have made the everyday moments unique and the highlights unforgettable.

The thematic underpinnings of my interests, from scientific research to athletics, are the same- a commitment to originality, an appreciation of risk, and a desire to overcome my limitations. At the end of my master’s degree program, where I was trained in both evolutionary biology and algorithm development, I was at an inflection point in my professional life- should I search for creative outlets in industry, or continue the academic track?  My decision was made when I was accepted to the Tri-I CBM program and realized the exciting opportunities to work in an environment with pioneers in fields of machine learning and population genetics, to name a few.

During my three laboratory rotations, I worked on microbial taxonomic classification, bacterial strain inference, de novo assembly, applied machine learning, and more. I have swabbed the subway stations of New York for environmental microbiomes, gotten elbow-deep in preparing high-throughput sequencing libraries for those samples, and spent countless hours developing analytics pipelines to infer the bacterial strains populating the public surfaces. I’m interested in the interface between human microbiomes and environmental microbiomes, and the ways social interaction facilitates microbial exchange between members of our community and high-contact physical spaces. I design algorithms to resolve species and strains from complex microbial communities, so that the full range of genetic variation between samples can be characterized. With improved taxonomic classification, we will be able to model the community-level evolutionary dynamics that shape the microscopic world around.

New York City has no shortage of outlets for recharging after a long day of swabbing subway seats and crushing code.  One of my pursuits is training in jiu jitsu and muay thai, combat sports that are a dialogue between the participants.  I have discovered that, in addition to the competitive elements, combat sports are highly meditative tasks. Procedures that are executed in a split second on the mat are learned through hours of repetition, only for me to find that my opposition has found a more effective way to say, ‘I win.’ The fun is in the learning and the doing, not the winning. I’m also into non-fiction books and recently, I’ve been reading more about the structural inequalities and injustice of our society to better make an impact in the world both now and in the future.