Akshi Khowala ‘23

My topic of research focuses on the optimization of a gene-editing technology called CRISPR-Cas9. This technology has the potential to treat many genetic diseases, especially blood diseases like Sickle Cell Anemia. However, an obstacle impeding the application is adverse effects which could cause severe adverse effects, such as cancers, to arise.

Why did you pursue this project?
Alongside my passion for science, I enjoy exploring other fields such as modern languages and performing arts. My favorite escape from the stresses of school is playing the piano. I relish playing pieces by Beethoven, such as the Moonlight Sonata, and also those by Claude Debussy. My intense love for travel manifests itself in my hobby of learning new languages. Learning these new languages, such as Spanish, French, and Arabic, is rewarding because it enables me to connect with a vast variety of cultures and people. Additionally, being an only child, I value spending time with my family. Our favorite pastime is playing a game called Ludo. We are all fairly competitive players, which leads to a rather interesting game, with some members getting more emotionally involved than others. 

My main passion has to be science and my involvement in the research program at Hackley is an integral part of me both as a student and as a person. I was inspired to take on the CRISPR-Cas9 technology because it is a true embodiment of the incredible strides the scientific community is making. I know of people in my circle who have genetic diseases which greatly impact their quality of life. This fact motivated me to explore the topic even more. Regarding my current project itself, I am working alongside mentors at Regeneron to find ways in which we can further optimize the CRISPR-Cas9 technology and eradicate off-target changes.