An Arizona 17-year-old girl is among the winners of the national Intel Science Talent Search. Anvita Gupta of Scottsdale took home a third place Medal of Distinction for Global Good and $35,000 in the event held earlier this month in Washington, D.C. Gupta used machine learning to “teach” a computer to identify potential drugs for cancer, tuberculosis and Ebola. Preclinical trials are already underway in China on the tuberculosis drugs that she identified. Gupta and Cathleen Barton, Arizona Education Manager for Intel, will discuss the talent search and the research that won Gupta her prize.
Ted Simons: In tonight's edition of "Arizona Technology and Innovation" we meet a Scottsdale teenager who met President Obama earlier this week at the fifth annual White House science fair. Earlier this month Anvita Gupta: was honored at the National Endowment for the Arts held in Washington, D.C. Joining us now is Anvita Gupta, and also with us tonight is Cathleen Barton, Arizona education manager for Intel. Good to have you both here. Thank you for joining us.
Anvita Gupta: Thank you.
Ted Simons: And congratulations to you. Tell us about this Intel talent search.
Anvita Gupta: It's a talent search that basically seeks to find the most cutting-edge high school research and researchers and recognize them. We had about 1800 applicants this year from around the nation submitting their research reports for the work they have done. They pared those down to 300 semifinalist and 40 finalists who for a week to Tiger Woods undergo very rigorous judging. They picked nine medals of distinction. I was actually a medal of distinction winner for global good.
Ted Simons: As far as this whole event is concerned society for science and the public, what are we talking about here?
Cathleen Barton: They are our partners that advance science education in the United States and inquiry based teaching and learning and student research. Published the magazine science.
Ted Simons: The science talent search, that's got to be a pretty rough business. There are a lot of kids competing against each other.
Cathleen Barton: It's an amazing business. As Anvita said, we started with 1800 applicants, winnowed it down to 40 and she was the star of the top 9 who received awards.
Ted Simons: What was your project?
Anvita Gupta: I worked on computational drug discovery. It takes 10 years and $5 billion to bring a single drug to market. I focused on reducing the time and costs of drug discovery by combining artificial intelligence with bio chemistry to find which drugs will be active for diseases like cancer, tuberculosis and ebola.
Ted Simons: Basically a computer program that looks at fact and probabilities and goes from there?
Anvita Gupta: Yeah, exactly. It gives you a list of which drugs will work. They have been shown to work in clinical trials.
Ted Simons: What made you focus on that?
Anvita Gupta: About two years ago I did a project on pancreatic cancer and looking at social networking with biology. I find it just like an entrepreneur would market to the person with the most funds, researchers should target proteins in pancreatic cancer and have the most interactions. Everyone that came had a relative that died of pancreatic cancer or had relative that died of pancreatic cancer. It inspired me on how to solve the problems by applying computer science and biology.
Ted Simons: As far as other projects, what did you see?
Cathleen Barton: One student created an advanced encryption device to be used in cybersecurity. Another student created a mobile device, very low cost, that could be used to test blood for diseases. Both of those have great implications.
Ted Simons: And I would imagine, are they being used already? Are they in use?
Cathleen Barton: To get to the Intel search and research, many students have already proven different parts of their research. Both of these students have, as well as Anvita.
Ted Simons: I looked at China is interested in what you're doing?
Anvita Gupta: They have been testing the drugs I found for tuberculous. So far they have been found to be active, that's pretty exciting.
Ted Simons: You got the medal?
Anvita Gupta: Global good.
Ted Simons: Were you surprised when you won?
Anvita Gupta: Yeah, I was surprised, shocked, all of the above.
Ted Simons: In what sense? Because you saw what else was going on out there? It's got to be quite an experience.
Anvita Gupta: It was, seeing the other researchers and the quality of what they had done. And then also how much they knew about science in general. It was absolutely incredible.
Ted Simons: And we see you with the President there. The President's expression mirrors mine when I try to figure out what your project was all about. Kathleen, these kids are doing amazing things.
Cathleen Barton: These are America's next generation of innovators, they really, really are. We want to inspire the next generation of innovators. The National Endowment for the Arts helps the nation to identify some of the leading scientists and researchers like Anvita whose work is going to solve real world problems and global challenges. Their amazing.
Ted Simons: Are you going to develop this further? Are you off on other avenues right now?
Anvita Gupta: I mentioned the drugs found to be active, we're going forward with those and more clinical trials. I'm also working on applying my algorithm for more diseases because it's so generally applicable, integrating data with biology.
Ted Simons: Your at Basis correct. What kind of University experience are you looking for?
Anvita Gupta: A rigorous challenging one.
Ted Simons: Do you have any ideas yet?
Anvita Gupta: Still wait for the decisions to come in next week.
Ted Simons: What about a major?
Anvita Gupta: Computer science.
Ted Simons: So computer science is pretty much and again, when we talk about teenagers, we're talking about kids who haven't even gotten to college yet. This is really a springboard, isn't it?
Cathleen Barton: They have taken academic courses in many cases that are college level, beyond what many students even do in college. Intel, we're in the East Valley with a huge high-tech manufacturing plant. But other corporations and start-ups need the same kind of talent that Anvita has, and also that she's inspiring. You might want to ask her about her program for young girls.
Ted Simons: I think I just might do that. Thank you so much. This is called lead us, for girls.
Anvita Gupta: It's a computer science club to middle school girls. They come in and I have about 40 girls in the program right now, they are learning how to program games, apps and animation. I'll really trying to inspire them to pursue computer science and S.T.E.M. more in the future. We see so many girls dropping out of S.T.E.M. That's like a really big problem going forward.
Ted Simons: Sounds like a great program of the computer model is fantastic and very successful. Good luck for the future.
Anvita Gupta:Third Place Medal of Distinction for Global Good Winner, National Intel Science Talent Search; Cathleen Barton:Arizona Education Manager, Intel;