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Beaverton's Rishab Jain takes home national technology prize for app that could help detect cancer

COURTESY PHOTO: SOCIETY FOR SCIENCE AND THE PUBLIC - Rishab Jain, 14, took home the second place price in the technology category at the 2019 Broadcom MASTERS science and engineering competition in Washington, D.C.At just 14, Rishab Jain is an internationally recognized inventor and science whiz.

Jain has already made national headlines for winning the title of America's Top Young Scientist in 2018 after developing an app to help detect genetic mutations that can lead to pancreatic cancer. Last month, his app, combined with his competition skills, earned him the second place technology prize in the Broadcom Math, Applied Science, Technology, and Engineering for Rising Stars (MASTERS) middle school science competition in Washington, D.C.

Broadcom MASTERS, a partnership with the Society for Science & the Public, is one of the most prestigious science and engineering competitions for middle school students in the United States.

This year, 30 student finalists from around the country were judged on projects they previously presented at state or regional science fairs, as well as their knowledge of STEM subjects and their demonstration of 21st-century skills in a series of hands-on challenges.

For his win, Jain earned a $2,500 prize to use toward a STEM camp of his choice.

Oh, plus his name is being written in the stars.

A minor planet discovered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's LINEAR program at the Lincoln Laboratory will be named after Jain in honor of his achievements. 12900 Rishabjain, as it's being called, is an asteroid in an elliptic orbit around the Sun at about three times the distance of Earth.

Jain is a freshman at Westview High School in Beaverton. He developed his app when he was 13, as a middle-schooler at Stoller Middle School.

"Pancreatic cancer is a really lethal disease," the 14-year-old said Monday. "It's incurable. Survival rates are really low, and they have not improved." Jain said he used artificial intelligence to help detect gene mutations that are often indicators of the deadly cancer.

"Often, these genetic mutations can end up preventing treatments from working," he noted. "If a patient has a KRAS mutation, then my tool is able to predict that from biopsy."

Jain dubbed the app the "Pancreas Detective."

Unsurprisingly, Jain continues to receive national acclaim for his efforts.

"Rishab demonstrated acumen and promise in the technology category with his design of an artificial intelligence tool that works in conjunction with the results of gene sequencing that can help to diagnose patients who have pancreatic cancer," the Society for Science & the Public, the organization that partners with Broadcom for the annual MASTERS competition, said via email after Jain's second-place win.

Jain wasn't the only local kid to fly to Washington, D.C., in October. Fellow Beaverton student Autri Das, 12, also competed in the conference with her project, which focuses on carbon dioxide reduction.

In addition to visiting the nation's capitol and coming home with a top prize, Jain's achievements have landed him in TIME Magazine, Teen Vogue and Good Morning America. Next week, they'll take him to Vatican City.

He just started high school, but Jain is already thinking about his future career. The medical field sounds promising, but so does research.

"Recently, I've gotten to see how doctors and surgeons, especially, can make an immediate difference in peoples' lives," he said.

Jain is an anomaly at his young age, but he's not the first in his family to excel in STEM. His father is an engineer at Intel and his older brother, Aditya Jain, won the technology prize at Broadcom MASTERS in 2014 for a project aimed at increasing early lung cancer detection. He, too, now has a minor planet named after him.

Jain's mother, Manisha, works in real estate. She says her sons were exposed to science and math concepts at an early age, which helped foster their comfort with STEM subjects in the teen years.

"I think that was definitely a good influence on him, just an exposure to STEM at an early age," Manisha Jain said. "From the age of 3, he was (exploring), and that hobby became more of a serious interest."

When he's not looking for solutions for better detection and prevention of cancer, Jain is helping younger kids ease into STEM. Last summer, he put on a series of workshops for young children in first through fifth grades, aimed at science, technology, engineering, arts and math, or STEAM.

"I did one workshop for each letter of STEAM," Jain noted. "I taught them how to solve a Rubik's Cube, work with origami, look at plants under a microscope. ... I think the interest is definitely there, you just need to foster it at a young age."

Jain said he's trying to work with libraries in his area to develop STEAM kits for children to use. The kits would include a handful of toys, puzzles or devices representing each facet of the acronym: science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

The teen said he hopes to use some of his prize money from previous competitions to give back to his community.

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