17 Year-Old Invents Less Invasive Test For Breast Cancer

By Jenny Xu | 9 years ago

Remember your last science fair? The paper maché baking soda volcanoes, the limp bean plants, and the tri-folds; the scent of hastily applied glue still lingering in the air…

Well forget all that. Competitors at fairs these days are much more tech savvy. Brittany Wenger, this year’s winner of the Google Science Fair, has coded a computer program that helps doctors detect breast cancer with a less invasive biopsy.

Brittany, completely self taught, created an artificial neural network that can learn from experiences and mistakes. She then taught it to classify problems far better than humans by giving the artificial intelligence a stream of data from fine needle aspirates, which is the least invasive form of biopsy. The program is so sensitive that it can detect malignancies 99.1 percent of the time, and with more data coming in, the success rate continues to increase. She hopes that someday her program will be used in hospitals, and plans to fine-tune it until it is ready.

You have to give Brittany props for patience and determination: she ran 7.6 million trials, and spent 600 hours coding. In addition, she began teaching herself programming in seventh grade, when she became interested in artificial intelligence. She plans to pursue that passion, and to combine it with cancer research as well as becoming a pediatric oncologist.

In the generally masculine world of computer science and programming, it’s wonderful to see young women taking the lead and becoming interested in the quickly expanding field. For the entire interview with Brittany, click here.