Bhavjinder Khaira - 2008 Winning Essay

Since I was in elementary school, I've had a keen interest in computer science. But my passion towards the health and well-being of others led me to begin my university education studying microbiology and immunology. As I became more aware of the emerging fields of bioinformatics and systems biology, I re-ignited my interest in computer science and decided to study towards a combined degree in both fields.

Most people don't see the relevance of computer science in health related fields, but it is becoming critical in research. I recently spent 8 months in a lab designing tools and features for a publicly-available database for researchers to study genomic characteristics of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, the most common infectious pathogen for cystic fibrosis patients. Using these web-based tools, researchers are able to find virulence genes or possible drug and vaccines targets easily before testing them in the laboratory. In this way, computers help simulate or solve such biological problems in a minimum amount of time, which is important since infectious diseases are becoming harder to treat with the common misuse of antibiotics.

My goal is to utilize my skills in computer science to play an important role in developing tools to aid research in infectious diseases, the leading cause of death in the world. I hope to achieve this goal by pursuing a Doctoral degree in Bioinformatics and further collaborating with researchers across the globe to aid in the discovery of new prophylactic and therapeutic strategies in eradicating infectious diseases.