6 Ways That Teen Scientists Are Changing Our World

Considering the research presented by whip-smart high school seniors at the 2014 Intel Science Talent Search, we'd say our future looks brighter.

By Meera Jagannathan
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Prevent the spread of E. coli.

How can we help decrease carbon emissions, boost agricultural yields, and prevent E. coli from spreading? Anne Merrill, 17, of Old Greenwich, Connecticut, intends to find out, by studying the effects of integrating topsoil with biochar, a material gleaned from burning organic biomass.

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Increase precision in breast cancer treatment.

Many breast cancer patients undergo painful chemotherapy in hopes that it will prevent the cancer cells from spreading, but the treatment isn’t always effective. Natalie Ng, 18, of Cupertino, California, has developed a diagnostic tool that could more accurately predict the cells’ spread to other areas of the body. 

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Filter arsenic from drinking water.

When Thabit Pulak, 18, of Richardson, Texas, saw firsthand the effects of arsenic contamination in Bangladesh’s water, he fashioned an inexpensive filter with materials he found around the house—rust, vinegar, and homemade soap. Using those ingredients, Pulak also created paper test strips that can test for arsenic content in contaminated drinking water.

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Slow the damages of Alzheimer’s.

Inspired by her grandfather’s dementia, 18-year-old Lisa P. Michaels from Plano, Texas crossbred fruit flies to show how increased levels of the antioxidant glutathione could slow neuron damage related to Alzheimer’s disease. Michaels, who began her research in 8th grade, has a patent pending for her new fly strain.

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Predict cancer patients’ responses to treatment.

Ivan Spassimirov Paskov, 18, of Scarsdale, New York, began his research in fifth grade after his mother was diagnosed with cancer. Paskov used genomic databases and high-performance computer technology to predict drug effectiveness based on the genetic makeup of different cancers, which could pave the way for treatments custom-made for the genetic profile of a tumor.

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Rethink electronic screens before sleep.

Zarin Ibnat Rahman, 17, of Brookings, South Dakota, is on a mission to make adolescents’ excessive exposure to screens a public health concern. After noticing she slept worse and was less alert after nighttime computer use, Rahman observed normal and sleep-deprived subjects and found that prolonged exposure to screens caused heightened stress, daytime fatigue, and diminished cognition.

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