Meet The 17 Year Old Who Received 50K From Google For Inventing A Portable Ebola Test
Olivia Hallisey is a high school junior from Connecticut, and she’s on her way to medical greatness. At the 2015 Google Science Fair in Mountain View, California, she submitted a not-so-simple invention: An on-the-go Ebola test. It’s a break through! Previously, most diagnostic tests were ultra expensive, required electricity and constant refrigeration (both of which are in short supply in rural African villages) and took hours or even days to return results. On the contrary, Hallisey’s test costs only $25 per screening, does not need to be refrigerated, does not require electricity, and shows results within 30 minutes.
Hallisey began work on the test last year, as she watched from home as Ebola ravaged West Africa and even made its way to America. “I knew I wanted a simple and stable solution to a complex problem like infectious diseases,” Hallisey told CNBC, “so I started looking into ways on how to limit the spread of this deadly disease.”
Using previous Ebola tests as a blueprint, Hallisey scrapped their pricey models. Her biggest breakthrough was using a silk fiber derivative to keep chemicals stable, rather than the traditional method of refrigerating tests. She mounted the test strips on paper cards, and formatted them so they are readable and provide quick results.
“She did what I love to see and what I find so inspiring: She looked at what exists and then took a leap,” Mariette DiChristina, editor-in-chief and senior vice president of Scientific American and chief judge at the Google Science Fair, told Scientific American.
When asked by CNBC for the advice she would give young girls who want to pursue a scientific career, Hallisey said “I would just encourage girls just to try it in the beginning, remind them that they don’t have to feel naturally drawn or feel like they have a special talent for math or science, but just really just look at something they are interested in and then think how to improve something or make it more enjoyable or relate it to their interests.”
Google awarded Hallisey with $50,000 in scholarships as the grand prize at their science fair, which Hallisey will use to go to college and keep making rad inventions to make our world a better place.