Age: 18Atherton, CA
Project Title: A Low Cost, Closed Loop Insulin Pump for the Better Management of Types 1 and 2 Diabetes Mellitus
Anna is an 18-year-old student from Atherton, California. At a young age, Anna was captivated by how the world around her worked, conducting experiments out of her kitchen with whatever materials she could get her hands on. She is grateful to the Davidson Institute for their commitment to nurturing the next generation of young scientists and artists and is both excited and honored to become a part of the Fellows community.
The science of the human body fascinates Anna. One of its most typical disorders, diabetes, primarily affects young people around her age and turns their world upside down, requiring constant injections and midnight blood sugar tests. Diabetes is a significant problem in Native American communities; Anna’s own friends and family have been affected. Insulin pumps help tremendously with controlling the disease, yet are costly and thus difficult to obtain, especially for those with type 2 diabetes. One insulin pump can easily cost over five-thousand dollars. These issues inspired Anna to develop a more effective and cheaper closed-loop insulin pump that would be accessible to more people living with diabetes.
Anna conducted her project almost entirely on her own, relying on free reference materials, online resources, and software to teach herself how to code and engineer the pump. She sought out people with diabetes and interviewed them about what would improve their pumps, then obtained insulin pumps and took them apart to understand their internal mechanics. She taught herself to program and quickly became enthralled with coding. As Anna explored everything from serial interfaces to neural networks to multivariable regression analysis, topics she was learning about in the classroom came to life. After learning about hypothesis testing in her statistics class, Anna was able to apply the concept to demonstrate that her insulin pump was as accurate at insulin dosing as other commercially available systems. Her scientific process was one of trial and error, learning from mistakes and brainstorming fixes in order to enhance the research and design process and make the device function correctly.
Currently, people with diabetes must manually adjust their insulin dosages, an exhausting process that requires constant vigilance. As diagnosis often occurs at a young age, this burden falls onto the parents and caregivers, resulting in countless sleepless nights (and thousands of juice boxes consumed to treat low blood sugar). Anna’s closed-loop insulin pump aims to reduce these problems by automatically adjusting insulin delivery with an all-in-one system that improves upon and synthesizes numerous open-source projects. Her pump is also more accessible, as it costs much less than other pumps currently on the market. Ultimately, she hopes to continue her research in college and beyond to improve both the quality of these closed-loop systems and their accessibility to those in socioeconomically-disadvantaged communities.
Throughout high school, Anna took advantage of the opportunities offered by the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, which gave her a forum to present her work at conferences and receive mentorship from other indigenous STEM professionals. With the support of her teachers, she was selected to spend this past summer in Bar Harbor, Maine investigating the immunological origins of type 1 diabetes at the Jackson Laboratory as a participant in their Summer Student Program. A recent graduate of Menlo-Atherton High School, Anna will be moving ten minutes down the road next year to attend Stanford University, where she hopes to study computer science and human biology. She is grateful to all of her teachers that have nurtured her love of learning, especially Dr. Rachel Richards, Mr. Patrick Roisen, and Ms. Cynthia Donaldson.
For her independent research, Anna has been recognized by the Regeneron Science Talent Search, Congressional App Challenge, Intel International Science Fair, and National American Indian Science and Engineering Fair. Hoping to establish a forum for both herself and other students at her school to present and share independent research, she founded and directed the first science fair in her school district. A longtime participant in 4-H, she is also the creator and leader of a county-wide Advanced STEM project to inspire teens about science. In the future, Anna hopes to work as a physician-investigator in the Indian Health Service, serving her community while also engineering novel solutions to improve diabetes care. Outside of the laboratory, Anna can be found baking homemade sourdough bread, running marathons and half marathons, re-reading her favorite books, and hiking in the foothills near her house.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? I hope to be completing my MD/Ph.D. in biomedical engineering or biomedical informatics, creating software and devices to improve diabetes care.
If you could have dinner with the five most interesting people in the world, living or dead, who would they be?
Atul Gawande, Frederick Banting, Frederick Delano Roosevelt, Katie Ledecky, and Paul Kalanithi
If you could be on any TV show, which one would it be?The Amazing Race - I love traveling and experiencing new cultures.
In the News
Anna Quinlan to be awarded $10,000 as a 2019 Davidson Fellow Scholarship Winner
San Jose, Calif. – The Davidson Institute for Talent Development has announced the 2019 Davidson Fellows Scholarship winners. Among the honorees are Cynthia Chen, 17, of Cupertino; Natasha Maniar, 17, and Aryia Dattamajumdar, 17, of Sunnyvale; and Anna Quinlan, 18, of Atherton. Only 20 students across the country are recognized as scholarship winners each year.
Quinlan’s project, A Low Cost, Closed Loop Insulin Pump for the Better Management of Types 1 and 2 Diabetes Mellitus, is built with a low-cost 3D-printed components, allowing for lower production costs and greater accessibility for the more than 415 million people who live with diabetes worldwide. Quinlan will be attending Stanford in the fall where she plans to continue developing software and devices to improve diabetes care.
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Started in 1999, the Davidson Institute for Talent Development is a 501(c)3 private operating foundation. Our mission is to recognize, nurture and support profoundly intelligent young people ages 18 and under, and to provide opportunities for them to develop their talents to make a positive difference.
Profoundly gifted students are those who score in the 99.9th percentile on IQ and achievement tests. Read more about this population in this article.