I’m a bit of a Science Fair geek. My daughter was a regional winner years ago and I have been a judge at more of them than I can count. At Intel’s International Science Fair this year, a young man came forward with an idea that just may save your life.
A fifteen-year-old boy named Jack Andraka has developed a cheap, easy, and highly accurate paper sensor for the early detection of pancreatic cancer. In May, he won the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in the medical and health sciences category, earning a $75,000 prize. Jack explains:
So, what I did; is create this paper sensor and it basically has single wall carbon nanotubes which are atom thick tubes of carbon mixed with anti-bodies to this one cancer bio-marker called mesothelin. An anti-body is basically a molecule that binds specifically to one other molecule. So, what happens is; when I compared it, to the current gold standard of protein detection called called ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay), it was actually 168 times faster, over 26,000 times less expensive and over 400 times more sensitive. And what I found is that my sensor in a blind study it actually had a 100% correct diagnosis, in diagnosing pancreatic cancer and could diagnose the cancer before it actually became invasive.
I did not expect for it to be this good at detecting pancreatic cancer, anti-bodies and stuff so – I was blown away by how sensitive it was.
I actually got into this kind of work because my uncle he died due to pancreatic cancer it metastasized and I got interested in early diagnosis and I found the blood tests where the only practical way to detect it in routine screening, so then I got interested in mesothelin and actually loved single wall carbon nanotubes, they are the superheros of material science and so then I was just thinking how I could apply them here and it came to me one day in biology class.
You can never tell what deep thoughts the quiet kid in class is thinking. But you can be ready with supporting materials, enthusiastic answers to questions, and guidance to deeper levels of thinking . . . regardless of your field of study or teaching area.