Monday, September 14, 2015

Science Fair Rock Star - Olivia Hallisey

This is the third in an ongoing series highlighting some of the amazing young women participating in this year's Google Science Fair. (Here's the first and second posts.) Each has survived the rigorous regional rounds, and are awaiting the results of the final testing to see who will win this year's prizes. The results will be announced on September 21, 2015, and you can be sure I'll be watching!

As always, I am impressed with all the participants and their projects, but the nature of this blog is to highlight the stories of kickass women and girls, so I'm focusing on them for this series. Over the next week I will be sharing stories of many of these remarkable young women. Stay tuned!

Olivia Hallisey is a brilliant and determined young woman. I expect to see great things from her in the future. She's only a sophomore in high school, and already she has earned major science fair cred for her project to create a diagnostic tool for fighting Ebola and other highly infectious diseases. The picture above is from her win at the International Science and Engineering Fair, held earlier this year.

Inspiration for her project came in response to news of the devastating Ebola outbreak in 2014. She learned that fast response to each new outbreak was crucial and wondered if the science behind silk protein storage (fibroin) would aid in transporting the valuable antibodies to remote locations where refrigeration is not always available. She set to work creating an Ebola Assay Card which is able to remain at room temperature for up to one week and still successfully detect the presence of the Ebola virus. Each antibody storage card is easy to produce on location within about 30 minutes, and costs around $25.

Her research has also shown that this silk-film embedding method could easily be used to detect HIV, Lyme Disease, Yellow Fever, Dengue Fever and even some cancers.

In addition to spending hours in the lab, she is also a competitive swimmer. This brilliant young scientist was inspired by her grandfather, himself a doctor and medical researcher. It's clear she has inherited quite a bit of his aptitude and determination.

When asked what advice she'd give others, she takes a pragmatic approach, reminding us to, "Reconsider existing solutions and always ask 'Why not?' Don’t think that everything that can be done has been done. There’s always room for innovation and creative reconsideration." Indeed.

For more reading, please check out the Google for Education blog post about Olivia Hallisey.

Photo source: Greenwich Post

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