Nicole Ticea – 16 Year Old Genius

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A faster, cheaper way to test for HIV is always exciting, but when the test is created by a 16 year old high school student it’s not surprising that people are taking notice.

Meet Nicole Ticea, a 16 year old girl who found a passion for science and research. Nicole created a device that is incredibly impressive and appears to be a very simple (only using a pin prick of blood) and vital solution to diagnosing HIV sooner rather than later to allow patients to begin treatment and decrease transmission as soon as possible thus, saving thousands, if not millions of lives in the long run. Nicole states : “So, what I’ve done is I’ve presented the very first nucleic acid test on a fully disposal platform for on-location analysis of HIV. So, essentially how it works is it looks to see if you have any HIV DNA or RNA present in your blood stream. This is really vital because HIV DNA and RNA are the very earliest biomarkers of HIV infection and this means that we can really diagnose HIV in its earliest stages. And this is significant because it means that we could initiate therapy very, very early when it’s most effective and also we could significantly decrease the risk of transmission by having individuals aware of their HIV status.”
She added : “Now, the second component of this test is the fact that it’s fully disposable, easily portable, rapid, and cheap, and this enables us to accurately perform this early diagnosis at the patient’s point-of-care.”

It is truly amazing that a girl so young found her passion for life, many people struggle to find their passion throughout their whole lives. I am glad Nicole is making a difference in this world at such a young age, I feel like the social media world puts girls that young down and says that our generation is chaotic but this is just proof that even young people are out to make a difference.

Nicole was one of the winners of the world’s largest high school science competition the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, which was held in the United States and 1,700 of the world’s brightest teen scientists, engineers, and innovators competed for $4 million in awards.

Nicole here, received one of two Intel Foundation Young Scientist Awards for developing an inexpensive, easy-to-use testing device to combat high rates of undiagnosed HIV infection in low-income communities. Her device—which is both disposable and electricity-free—provides results in less than one hour and is expected to cost less than $5 to produce. Not to bad for a gal who is just barely old enough for her drivers test!
As accomplished as she is it is very hard to believe that she wasn’t even graduated from her high school yet when she won this award. And still, science and research are clearly a formed passion of hers.
In an interview she did earlier this year she was asked when was her ‘Ah-ha’ moment when she realized that she had an interest in STEM and her answer was very compelling – “Well actually, for me, it started more on the writing side. So I loved stories; I loved writing my own stories and making things up, writing poetry, writing short pieces, and I think it was not so much science but the creativity aspect of it [that got me interested]. I really like putting things together and really creating things; that’s the entire point and writing is just another form of invention.” 
She went on :  “So as I really got further into my studies and was exposed to more science, I realized that science is just another story that I really wanted to explore. And it gave me so much room for creation in putting things together and then inventing. And that was really what I loved to do—out-of-the-box thinking—and I think, though there wasn’t a single ‘aha’ moment, but what really defined me, almost, was the very first science fair I did and just seeing all of those other kids who were creating things that were so different from what I was doing but that were equally exciting and equally interesting”.

Also in the interview Nicole speaks to those smart girls interested in pursuing work in STEM, she says to do exactly what they’re doing because when you’re that age, its all about being extremely receptive and sensitive to the world around you, so react to new things, explore, wonder, make up stories, be creative. And then when you grow older, she would actually say try not to lose that initial spark, that excitement, almost that challenge that comes with exploring new things and seeing things for the very first time.

When it comes to teenage girls, a lot of what they’re afraid of is rejection, they’re afraid of being told that something is simply impossible. What Nicole says is, take a risk! Nicole stated in her interview that ” I remember, back when I was—I had this project and I was sending it out to so many researchers, and I kept getting ‘no, no no’ responses back, and in some cases I wouldn’t actually even get an email from the professor refusing me; I’d just get back nothing. And it was really about persevering and taking those rejections almost as fuel to keep sending it out, and just putting myself out there and seeing what comes. So I think, really, just take a chance.”

So young girls out there, don’t be afraid to take chances and risks, try make a difference even in the little ways. The world is definitely lacking people like that. Let’s make it a better place!

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