17-Year-Old Girl Wins Google Science Fair for Innovative Ebola Test

Image Source: Andrew Federman
Image Source: Andrew Federman

“When she walked out in the beginning, she just stopped and took a moment to look around and really take in everyone cheering for her,” my friend Beth told me the other day of the moment Taylor Swift first appeared on stage at a concert last week. “She had her hands on her heart as she smiled. You could tell how appreciative and awed she was.”

Beth, who was there with her 10-year-old daughter, said the concert (and its star) lived up to the hype — and sky-high ticket prices.

I would have liked to have brought my 7-year-old daughter, but it wasn’t in my budget. And while I agree that Swift seems to be a substantially better role model, than say, Ariana Grande, as far as my daughters are concerned, I don’t look at any celebrity’s worth to be deeper than their few catchy songs or show on TV.

But Olivia Hallisey? I am all about her right now.

If my daughters want to know every lyric to Swift’s 1989 album, I want to ensure they also know all about Hallisey’s work. That’s because the 17-year-old high school junior from Greenwich, CT, recently won the 2015 Google Science Fair for a low-cost test she developed that lets you know whether you have Ebola in under 30 minutes, which means the disease can even be detected before symptoms are present.

Speaking to CNBC’s “Power Lunch“, Hallisey said:

“Up to 90 percent of victims will die without early diagnosis and medical intervention. Current detection methods are expensive, time-consuming, and utilize complex instrumentation and chemicals that require uninterrupted refrigeration. My device will allow for shipment and storage without refrigeration, and provide detection of the Ebola viral antigens based on color change in as little as 30 minutes.”

The faster Ebola is diagnosed in a patient, the better the chance for survival — and to stem further contamination. Hallisey said it could also be adapted to detect for other diseases, including some cancers, Lyme disease, and Yellow fever.

It’s not just that Hallisey won the contest that makes her impressive. The most encouraging part is that she’s a girl in a field famously dominated by men. It doesn’t matter to me if my kids are already showing a proclivity towards science, technology, engineering, or math (they’re not, but they’re also only 4 and 7). What’s important is that instead of the age-old tradition of parents and teachers pushing girls towards more artsy interests while boys don lab coats, there are now more and more examples of real girls doing what so many before them weren’t told they were capable of. And not only is Hallisey doing it, but she’s doing it the best, which speaks right to little kids who have been known to have a black-and-white way of viewing the world.

Google’s annual contest is open to teens 13 to 18 years old, with the winner taking home a $50,000 scholarship. While that’s an amount far less than Swift probably earns in t-shirt sales in one night, what it represents to young girls (and their parents), who are usually happy pocketing $1 after a visit with Grandma and Grandpa, is easily and eminently more valuable.

Article Posted 2 years Ago

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