Math major Daniela Ganelin investigates Alzheimer’s disease through neuroimaging at ICM
MIT-France student Daniela Ganelin (Math '18) in front of the ICM in Paris.

Combining math and cognitive science, Daniela’s internship helped drive progress in understanding the complex disease

Before her internship at the Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle Epiniere (ICM) in France, Daniela Ganelin, class of 2018, hoped that she would be able to combine her interests in math and cognitive science in an interdisciplinary, exciting research scene. She was delighted to find that her hope came true: “My supervisor and I were pretty happy with the work I accomplished,” she reports. Daniela’s research pursuits led her to a project with Dr. Olivier Colliot at the ARAMIS lab, based at ICM. ARAMIS is a computational lab with a broad range of collaborators, including researchers from the French National Center for Scientific Research, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, and the French Institute of Health and Medical Research, among other institutions.

Progress in a multi-faceted project

Daniela’s project focused on neuroimaging and the use of multimodal data to investigate Alzheimer’s disease. She applied machine learning methods to this data, with the goal of training a computer to distinguish between normal elderly subjects and those who suffered from Alzheimer’s. The second phase of the project was to use the results of cognitive tests, demographics, and other measurements to train the computer to predict the development of Alzheimer’s in subjects with slight cognitive impairment. Drawing on her Python and machine learning knowledge, Daniela attained “near-perfect results in the first task” and made excellent progress toward the second goal. The results of these two tasks would be “helpful in both a research and a clinical setting,” she explains. An overarching goal of this work is to “help find tailored methods for prevention,” which could lead to important progress in understanding Alzheimer’s disease.

Adapting to a new culture

Daniela was happy not only with the research she conducted, but also with the positive working environment she encountered. She was surprised at “how easy it was to get to know people and learn about all the different cultures they came from,” she states. She felt comfortable among her co-workers and also in adapting to French culture. She admits that she faced some linguistic challenges, and that it was occasionally difficult to be understood and to understand French speakers. However, she persisted, and felt that her language comprehension and expression improved greatly by the end of the summer. Overall, her internship provided her with “a fantastic opportunity to experience living in a new culture while gaining valuable research skills and confidence in an international setting.” She hopes to pursue similar research in the future, and to return to Europe for more exploration. 

My internship was a great chance to combine my interests in math and cognitive science while building connections with colleagues, and I’m excited to pursue similar work in the future.

  • France
  • Internship
  • Math