Age: 16Old Greenwich, CT
Project Title: Non-Invasive, Low-Cost Diagnosis of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease via Smartphone Breath Analysis
When one is asked to name the leading causes of death worldwide, he/she may answer cancer and possibly heart disease. What many fail to realize is that respiratory diseases, such as COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is the third leading cause of death in the US and the fourth leading cause of death worldwide. Recently, researchers have used breath analysis to detect diseases such as diabetes and lung cancer in order to diagnose efficiently, non-invasively, and more accurately. This diagnosis is possible through the detection of a patient’s breath biomarkers that are specific to COPD. My system uses Near Field Communication technology (that is most notably used in Apple Pay) in conjunction with a smartphone app to detect COPD breath biomarkers. The application is able to provide results in a matter of minutes, costs less than $2 and utilizes existing technologies to find a better solution for COPD disease detection.
Hi! My name is Hiba Hussain, and I am a rising senior from Greenwich High School in Greenwich, CT. From a young age, I have been fascinated with science, and took part in my first science fair in kindergarten where I tried my best to explain my model of the solar system. A few years later, I started reading novels about children with chronic illness and found my general love for science evolve into a passion for disease diagnosis and treatment. Fast forwarding to high school, I began to pursue my interest in disease diagnosis seriously by taking part in science research. Through this experience, I was able to learn about the true power of a single idea and the far-reaching implications of creating a helpful innovation. I am extremely grateful to be named a Davidson Fellow. With this scholarship, I wish to continue my research in hopes of benefitting my community in the future.
My project revolved around creating a non-invasive, smartphone-based system to aid both doctors and patients alike in the detection of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). In my literature review, I found that current methods of COPD diagnosis are time-consuming and costly, which sparked my interest to create a more accessible and rapid diagnostic device, such that the disease could be treated in the earliest of stages. I started out by modifying an NFC (Near-Field Communication) tag with nanomaterials to act as a sensor for the collection of breath biomarkers in COPD patients. When exposed to the breath biomarkers, I found that there was an electrical change upon reading the modified NFC tag with my smartphone. With this electrical change, I was able to train my smartphone application to a 4-minute, $2 diagnosis for COPD.
The majority of my work was completed at my high school lab, which I certainly found was a true test of my mettle. Though I had followed my initial research plan, I ran into obstacles everywhere, from simulating the collection of COPD breath gases (which served as the biomarkers) to modifying NFC tags. Perhaps the most difficult challenge was teaching myself the basics of Android programming to develop my smartphone application. Luckily, my mentor, Mr. Andrew Bramante, was able to guide me through the research process, and I would not have been able to complete this project without his support.
I hope to see my device used to diagnose COPD rapidly and effectively, before the condition transforms into a more severe illness like lung cancer. Also, I would love for my device to help make COPD diagnosis more accessible, especially in places where sophisticated medical equipment is extremely hard to come by. I also hope that a simple diagnostic system like mine will have the ability to save human lives in developing and underdeveloped countries and create a less burdensome economic impact on the poor.
In school, I have taken challenging courses to further pursue my interest in science and disease diagnosis. Outside of school, I have taken courses about the introductory principles of pharmacodynamics as well as one on immunology, where I researched the cancer drug Keytruda. In the summer leading up to my junior year, I interned with a pulmonologist at the Meriden-Midstate hospital in Meriden, CT. Through this experience, I was able to learn more about treating lung conditions such as COPD, chronic asthma, pneumonia, and lung cancer from a clinical perspective.
My plan is to eventually pursue a medical degree and be heavily involved in some type of medical research. In terms of awards and honors, my project has won third place in the Biomedical Engineering Category 2018 Intel ISEF. I am also currently attending RSI, a summer research program held at MIT. This year, I will be one of the captains of my high school’s Science Team, which competes in the DOE Science Bowl. In my free time, I enjoy belting out Disney songs and playing board games with my younger siblings.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Hopefully, I will be finishing med school and doing some kind of immunotherapy research.
If you could have dinner with the five most interesting people in the world, living or dead, who would they be?
Hippocrates, Avicenna, Rosalind Franklin, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk
If you could be on any TV show, which one would it be?Gilmore Girls or The Good Doctor
In the News
Hiba Hussain to be Named a 2019 Davidson Fellow Scholarship Winner
Old Greenwich, Conn. – The Davidson Institute for Talent Development has announced the 2019 Davidson Fellows Scholarship winners. Among the honorees is 16-year-old Hiba Hussain of Old Greenwich. Hussain won a $10,000 scholarship for her project, Non-Invasive, Low-Cost Diagnosis of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease via Smartphone Breath Analysis. She is one of only 20 students across the country to be recognized as a scholarship winner.
“I am extremely grateful to be named a Davidson Fellow,” said Hussain. “With this scholarship, I wish to continue my research in hopes of benefitting my community in the future.”
Hussain’s system uses Near Field Communication technology (that is most notably used in Apple Pay) in conjunction with a smartphone application to detect COPD breath biomarkers. The application is able to provide results in a matter of minutes, costs less than $2 and utilizes existing technologies to find a better solution for COPD disease detection. Her work could help diagnose COPD rapidly and effectively, before the condition transforms into a more severe illness like lung cancer. Her application also has potential uses in developing or underdeveloped countries where sophisticated medical equipment is unavailable or extremely expensive.
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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.