Age: 17Miami, FL
Project Title: Efficiency of a Novel Nano-Cardiac Device for Atherectomy of Coronary Artery Occlusion
The number one cause of death, coronary heart disease, is the buildup of plaque in the heart blood vessels. This is usually treated with open-heart surgery and weeks of recovering in the hospital, or with the insertion of a stent that helps the blood flow better. Since these treatments only manage the disease instead of fixing the underlying problem, my project investigated a new device, the rotational atherectomy, that actually removes plaque from the blood vessels. Since the device does not then remove the plaque from the body, I added suctioning holes so that the device can work better in operation, and patients can have a less complex surgery.
I am an incoming freshman at Johns Hopkins University interested in studying all things biomedical engineering. From building medical devices to designing genetic circuits, I hope to develop new solutions to improve the quality of life for patients worldwide. Personally, Davidson Fellows represent those with a passion towards the pursuit of knowledge as well as a dedication to improving society as a whole. Being recognized as a Davidson Fellow is a great honor and it motivates me to continue with these ideals through my professional journey.
This project began when I looked up the number one cause of death, and the answer was Coronary Heart Disease (CHD). After more reading, I learned that heart surgery is often difficult for both doctors and patients. CHD has two common treatments that are both temporary and flawed. The first is open-heart surgery, which usually leaves patients in the hospital for weeks to recover. The second treatment, stents, is not always an option since a significant portion of patients have a very high quantity of plaque in their vessel. Currently, doctors are implementing a new third treatment, rotational atherectomy, that can remove plaque from the blood vessel. While reading about this, I noticed that the plaque is removed from blood vessels but not removed from the body. Thus, I designed and tested models with suctioning holes. I found that these holes help the device work more efficiently, and, since this improved device has the potential to remove plaque from the body, this modification may lead to simpler, less invasive, and cheaper CHD treatment.
I am lucky to consistently be supported by my mentors, friends, and family throughout the project. My chemistry teacher, Dr. David Buncher, and biology teacher, Mrs. Lolitha Otero, helped me figure out how to test and present my ideas. When I had no idea how to simulate artery plaque, Dr. Buncher went into his lab cabinet and gave me an absorbing agent in diapers! Additionally, I’d like to thank Dr. Jacob Cohen M.D. as he gave me the opportunity to shadow him and see what a real operating room was like leading up to and during this project. Both Dr. Cohen and two other doctors in my family always explained why my ideas would or would not make sense in an actual patient. Finally, there are my parents, and sister, Maya, my personal hero, who always reminded me to never give up - especially when I felt like my ideas would never work.
This project was challenging to complete; I constantly felt like I needed more than 24 hours in a day. One issue was limiting the project since I could only research so much with robots in my garage (instead of professional lab work with actual patients). I also had to balance studying for classes as well as finish college applications. At the end of the day, knowing the impact my research may have in the field is what kept me going.
For most of my life I went to public school and took higher level classes in math and science. In elementary school, my parents enrolled me in Stanford’s Educational Program for Gifted Youth (EPGY), an online math program similar to today’s Khan Academy. At the same time, my sister began competing in science fairs which inspired me to tinker with electronic devices and do my own projects. In high school I continued to compete at science fairs while taking high level science classes. With this strong science and math foundation as well as years of research experience, I am excited to begin studying biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University this fall.
In my free time, I enjoy playing video games, reading about medieval history, and running. These all give me a chance to de-stress and clear my mind. I also volunteer at my local nursing home, where my dog and I talk to residents and brighten their day. In the future I plan to continue doing biological research. For the past two summers I’ve had the honor to conduct synthetic biology research in the Weiss lab at MIT. I’m a part of their genetic engineering research team. We are currently working on a possible COVID-19 treatment!
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Working as an engineer of medical devices.
If you could have dinner with the five most interesting people in the world, living or dead, who would they be?
Albert Einstein, Augustus Caesar, Catherine the Great, Douglas Adams, and Oda Nobunaga
In the News
MIAMI TEEN AWARDED $50,000 FOR DEVELOPING TECHNIQUE TO IMPROVE EFFECTIVENESS OF CORONARY HEART DISEASE TREATMENT
Ethan Levy to be Named a 2020 Davidson Fellow Scholarship Winner
Miami – The Davidson Fellows Scholarship Program has announced the 2020 scholarship winners. Among the honorees is 17-year-old Ethan Levy of Miami. Levy won a $50,000 scholarship for his project, Efficiency of a Novel Nano-Cardiac Device for Atherectomy of Coronary Artery Occlusion. He is one of only 20 students across the country to be recognized as a scholarship winner.
“Davidson Fellows represent those with a passion towards the pursuit of knowledge as well as a dedication to improving society as a whole,” said Levy. “Being recognized as a Davidson Fellow is a great honor and it motivates me to continue with these ideals through my professional journey.”
In 2017, the Center for Disease Control reported heart disease as the number one cause of death globally. Building upon the newly approved rotational atherectomy procedure that is able to remove plaque from arteries, Levy developed and tested an improved system which implements suction holes and is thus able to remove a greater volume of plaque while reducing heat buildup compared to a simulation of the current technique. Results showed that the new system has the potential, when combined with stent placement, to replace a debilitating surgery by removing occlusion from the coronary artery and restoring blood flow to the heart muscle.
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