The Horizon Academic Research Program is delighted to share the achievements of one of our brilliant alumni who is now a published high school student. Alperen Gür, having completed his academic research project with us at the intersection of medicine, technology, and machine learning, was recently accepted for publication in the IEEE Xplore journal and asked to speak at the 2022 Medical Technologies Congress. Guided by the insights and wisdom of Professor Guillermo Goldsztein from Georgia Tech, Alperen’s research used the logistics regression model to classify and predict whether an obese person had breast cancer. By employing machine learning feature engineering techniques, he expanded the workable data of an initially small sample size — thus contributing to the current scholarship by filling in some of the gaps and limitations in the statistical material available for researchers.
Given that many high school students tend to sell themselves short, underestimating what they’re capable of and creating self-imposed barriers in their academic journey, Alperen’s success story of how conducting independent research helped him trust in himself and gain confidence to network with scholars and take initiative over his studies in professional settings resonates deeply with thousands of other teenagers who likewise struggle with low self-efficacy.
Joining us from Deutsche Schule Istanbul, a cosmopolitan high school in Turkey, Alperen was part of the Spring 2022 Data Science and Machine Learning seminar cohort. He verbalized his deep gratitude for his mentor, expressing that “[Prof. Goldsztein] was the best part of the program. He was really helpful and wouldn’t mind being asked stupid questions if you couldn’t understand a topic or the main idea. His [motto] was that there are no stupid questions.” On Prof. Goldsztein’s pedagogy, Alperen stressed that “the recorded lectures were especially a really great source of support [since] we didn’t really just stick to listening [in the classroom] but could also review the content afterwards. He made recordings and notes not just about the machine learning parts but also about the mathematics behind it as well as about reinforcement learning, cybersecurity, cryptography, and the like.”
Despite the prestige and sense of accomplishment entailed in being a published author, Alperen rather summarized the most gratifying parts of the Horizon Academic Research Program as 1) “learning by doing, 2) discovering quite few thing about myself, and 3) producing something that I was proud of, and especially something professor Goldsztein would be proud of — since he spent so much time on us to teach and I wouldn’t want to disappoint him.” We can all certainly learn something from Alperen’s humbleness.
While Alperen jumped into the program originally only with the intention of fulfilling his intellectual curiosity and getting a firm grip on machine learning, statistics, and computational biology foundations, he walked away with a published research manuscript and an invitation to an academic conference to present his findings to experts in the field. He admitted that “the most effective factor [for submitting his paper for publication] was professor Goldsztein’s encouragement to do so” — who consistently motivated students to have faith in their hard work and try their odds. Alperen then continued to humorously narrate the day that the positive news reached him: “after three weeks of tedious waiting, I was at school when the email arrived that the article was accepted [...] so I couldn’t scream at the time since I was in the middle of a lesson. But after, I immediately came home and shouted into my pillow!” Here at Horizon, we would not expect anything short of this reaction in response to such incredible milestones in students’ academic and personal growth.
Looking back in order to look ahead, Alperen reflected on how his time with Horizon equipped him with the conviction that he, too, can make an imprint in the general scientific knowledge and community. It was this conviction that recently pushed him to reach out to researchers across the world in hopes of sharing novel information on Parkinson’s disease. The internationality of the Horizon seminar track prompted Alperen to continue creating transnational relations with professionals and has now enabled him to find and work alongside another professor to embark on an investigation into potential remedies for Parkinson’s disease. Given Alperen’s resolute and go-getter character, his advice for peers his age was a Turkish saying that roughly translates to: “you are sure to fail if you don’t try your chances but you may fail if you do.”