Indian American whiz kid Rishab Jain was named the overall winner of the 2018 Discovery Education and 3M annual Young Scientist Challenge, held Oct. 17 at the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul, Minn.
Eighth-grader Rishab Jain recently won the Grand Prize of the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge after creating “a method that uses artificial intelligence to help accurately locate the pancreas during MRI radiotherapy and make cancer treatment more effective.” As the winner, Jain received $25,000 and the title of “America’s Top Young Scientist.”
An algorithm he created uses machine learning to help doctors zero in on the pancreas during cancer treatment. Doing so can be difficult, since the pancreas is often obscured by other organs, and since breathing and other bodily processes can cause it to move around the abdominal area. As a result, doctors sometimes need to deploy radiation treatment with an “error circle” that ensures they’ll hit the pancreas, but that may kill some healthy cells as collateral damage.
Pancreatic cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, according to pancreatic.org. An inherent challenge of radiation treatment for pancreatic cancer resides in targeting the pancreas itself, the release said.
“It all started in the summer of 2017,” the 13-year-old Portland middle schooler. “I learned about some surprising statistics, such as the low survival rate, and that really inspired me to try to find a way to work on this problem. I’m also into programming. … So I wondered if I could apply some of the knowledge I had in artificial intelligence to this real-world problem of pancreatic cancer,” young Jain said.
Firstly, it is often obscured by the stomach or other nearby organs, making the pancreas difficult to locate, and second, breathing and other anatomical changes may cause the pancreas to move around in the abdominal area. As a result, radiotherapy treatment can inadvertently target and impact healthy cells, it noted.
Jain developed and tested his algorithm using images of the human digestive system, and found it could correctly detect the pancreas with a 98.9 percent success rate. The innovation aims to improve accuracy, reduce invasiveness and increase efficiency during treatment, resulting in better quality of life and chance for survival among patients, according to the companies.
The finalists presented their inventions to an esteemed panel of scientists and leaders from both Discovery Education and 3M. In addition, they competed in two other challenges that combined multiple 3M technologies to solve a real-world problem.
“All of the finalists for America’s Top Young Scientist embody the same curiosity, creativity, and passion that 3M uses when we apply science to life,” said Paul Keel, senior vice president of business development and marketing-sales at 3M. “These talented young men and women are just beginning their lives as scientists. I am excited by the endless possibilities that await each of them. We wish them all the joy and success that comes from a lifelong journey of exploration.”
The nine finalists received $1,000 and a variety of prizes from Discovery Education and 3M. The second, third and fourth runners-up also received a trip to a taping of a show on Discovery’s family of networks, the release said.
Indian American Mehaa Amirthalingam, an eighth grader at Sartaria Middle School from Sugar Land, Texas, was the runner-up. She developed a toilet flushing system that uses both fresh and recycled water to reduce water consumption in the home.
Sriram Bhimaraju, a sixth-grader at Harker Middle School in Cupertino, Calif., took fourth place in the competition. He developed an Archery Assistant app that improves an archer’s accuracy by correcting form in real-time using a Bluetooth sensor.
These finalists, in no particular order, included Cameron Sharma, an eighth-grader at George H Moody Middle School in Glen Allen, Va., who created uFlu, an algorithm that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify personalized flu vaccines; and Krish Wadhwani, an eighth grader at DeSana Middle School in Alpharetta, Ga., who developed a medication that could
potentially cure Huntington’s Disease, a degenerative condition in the brain that currently has no known cure.
Since its inception, the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge has awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in student prizes, paired students with world-renowned scientists to give them real-world insights and delivered much-needed science resources to millions of students, teachers and families across the country.
It targets students in the years when research indicates their interest in science begins to wane and encourages them to explore scientific concepts and creatively communicate their findings.
The annual premier competition recognizes scientific thinking and imagination in students grades 5-8 who dream up a solution to an everyday problem that ultimately could reshape and improve the way we live our lives.