This is Brittany Wenger. She’s 17. She just won a science fair. But it wasn’t just any science fair. Brittany won the Google Science Fair grand prize for designing a breast cancer diagnosis app.
Aww, isn’t that cute? She made an app.
No, that’s not “cute”. That is freaking amazing! We’re not talking about an iPhone app where you flick birds at weird obstacles. We’re talking about a bonafide computer program that doctors can use to diagnose breast cancer. In fact, her program is so accurate at identifying malignant tumors (99%), that it could be used in hospitals very soon.
Did I mention she is 17?
Brittany’s application is called a “neural network” and it is designed to mimic the human brain. You feed it truckloads of information and it learns to detect patterns and complexities in order to make a diagnosis.
The data she used came from a fine needle aspirates, which by themselves are not very precise. Her program was able to expand on that and correctly identify malignant tumors 99% of the time. That’s incredible!
It wasn’t just a better predictor of breast cancer – it has near perfect accuracy. The best part is that it will only get better as more data is added to the program. Brittany’s discovery will allow doctors to accurately diagnose breast cancer without using invasive procedures which are expensive and painful to the patient. The benefits of her efforts are outstanding.
First of all, girl programmers are a rarity so kudos to Brittany for being a geek. (And bonus kudos for being a Mac geek.) Brittany is a high school student from Lakewood Ranch, Florida. After taking a class on futuristic thinking and learning about neural networking technology, she was inspired to create the program after seeing her cousin go through painful biopsies. Brittany was already planning to become a pediatric oncologist and had a deep love for both computer science and biology. She saw this an opportunity to combine her interests and fill a need in the medical community.
And do you know what she did?
She went out and bought a book on computer programming and taught herself how to code. Hmmm. That sounds familiar.
She had no prior programming experience, no special classes or abilities. No major advantages over anyone else. Brittany saw a need, created a goal and went after it. No excuses, no goofing off, no giving up.
And that’s how girls change the world.
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