While most teenage girls are researching the most flattering lipstick color, 17-year-old Monta Vista High School senior Angela Zhang was using bioengineering to find a cure for cancer. According to Zhang, her breakthrough is a “nanoparticle that’s kind of like the Swiss Army knife of cancer treatment in that it can detect cancer cells, eradicate the cancer cells and then monitor the treatment response.” Her goal was to create a personalized cancer treatment for a targeted approach. Her after school project won top honors at the 2011 Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology and a $100,000 scholarship.
The $100,000 scholarship team prize at the competition was taken by Ziyuan Liu and Cassee Cain, a pair of seniors at Oak Ridge High School in Oak Ridge, Tennessee who collaborated to transform an Xbox360 into a sensor that analyzes the gaits of amputees or joint replacement patients wearing prosthetics. Competition judge Sudeep Sarkar, a computer engineer at the University of South Florida, predicts that this technology could help prosthetic manufacturers design more efficient products and drastically reduce medical costs by allowing clinicians to perform diagnostics and monitor patient progress from anywhere. With telehealth rapidly becoming an accepted medical practice, expansion into prosthetic aftercare could lower costs and raise the quality of care for recovering patients.
In March, the Intel Science Talent Search awarded yet another innovative teenager, Nithin Tumma of Fort Gratiot, Michigan, a $100,000 scholarship for his work. He found a way to potentially slow the spread of cancer and decrease cancer malignancy by inhibiting specific proteins. In ninth place of the talent search, Alissa Zhang won a $20,000 award for devising a way to monitor diabetic glucose levels using body fluids other than blood, like tears or saliva…which would be a welcome relief for pincushion diabetics weary of needles and could lead to better compliance and more careful monitoring.
The Flying Monkeys, a group of middle school Girl Scouts from Ames, Iowa, won the 2011 Global Innovation Award sponsored by FIRST LEGO League and the X Prize Foundation with a prosthetic hand device they invented to help a little girl born with no fingers on her right hand. Due to the efforts of aspiring young engineers Gaby Dempsey, Mackenzie Gewell, and Kate Murray, the 3-year-old girl is able to write for the first time.
At the 2011 Google Science Fair, Shree Bose took first prize in the 17-18 age group for discovering a way to improve treatment for ovarian cancer patients who have developed resistance to some commonly prescribed chemotherapy drugs.
With such amazing accomplishments before they even leave school, these kids are sure to be the future rockstars of the scientific world. In a field traditionally dominated by men, the status quo is in grave danger from the next generation of women.