High School Student Builds Artificial "Brain" to Detect Breast Cancer

A new, breakthrough technology has just been unveiled to accurately assess tissue samples for signs of breast cancer through a minimally invasive procedure.

But wait! There’s a twist: The cloud-based neural network was brought to us by a girl at the young age of 17. I repeat, the mastermind behind this breakthrough technology is a 17-year-old girl, and in addition, she won the top prize in this year’s Google Science Fair because of it!

“I taught the computer how to diagnose breast cancer,” Brittany Wenger, the aforementioned scientific genius, told MSNBC. “And this is really important because currently the least invasive form of biopsy is actually the least conclusive, so a lot of doctors can’t use them.”

So what exactly is an artificial neural network? It’s essentially a computer programmed to think like the brain, Wenger explained to MSNBC. These artificial networks can detect patterns that are too complex for humans. And as they process more and more data, they become better at it.

Wenger ran 7.6 million trials on her neural network, and found it is a staggering 99.1 percent sensitive to malignancy. With more data, Wenger says the network will be hospital ready, as the success rate will go up and the inconclusive rate will go down.

As if her age alone isn’t impressive enough, Wenger started building artificial intelligence networks in seventh grade, after studying the future of technology and sparking a newfound interest for a school project. Needless to say, she’s come a long way in a very short amount of time since her first neural network that played soccer.

The go-getter certainly isn’t stopping there, either—with a little coding and tweaking, she plans to adapt the network to diagnose other types of cancers and possibly other medical problems, too. You go girl, and enjoy your incredibly well deserved 10-day trip to the Galapagos Islands!

To find out more about Wenger's project and the other finalists, check out the Google Science Fair page.

Image courtesy of NY Daily News

Tagged in: women in science, technology, STEM, Google's Science Fair, Brittany Wenger, breast cancer   

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