14-Year-Old Leanne Fan Named America's Top Young Scientist For Inventing Headphones That Treat Ear Infections.
In 2019, Leanne Fan watched her older sister claim the top prize at the 3M Young Scientist Challenge — the premier science competition in the U.S. for middle school kids — and it inspired her to want to compete too. This fall, the eighth grader from Westview High School in San Diego was named America's Top Young Scientist! She won the prize for her innovative, inexpensive pair of blue-light therapy headphones that could be used to both identify and treat mid-ear infections, potentially preventing millions of children from experiencing hearing loss. The victory comes with a $25,000 prize, a special destination trip, and the chance to get her device, the Finsen Headphones, in front of investors. "I was in shock. I started crying," Leanne says. "I was really excited. I was not expecting it."
Fan wanted to tackle diagnosis and treatment of otitis media, the medical term for mid-ear infections, because she and her mother both suffer from them frequently. There are 700 million cases worldwide each year, but diagnosis and treatment can be difficult, particularly for children and for populations that have minimal access to healthcare. Untreated ear infections may also cause up to 60% of hearing loss in young children. To tackle the problem, Leanne knew she'd need to create a device that was inexpensive, easily portable, and easy to convince kids to use. "Healthcare should be available to everyone," she says, "because it's our health — it is a matter of life and death."
After doing research online and speaking with college professors, Leanne came up with the idea of a two-in-one set of headphones. First, the headphones connect with a Google machine learning app to compare images of the ear to thousands of images of both healthy and infected ears as a screening method. Then, if an infection is confirmed, the headphones use blue light to treat the infection without causing damage to healthy cells. Leanne even incorporated music into both stages of the process, so that kids could listen to their favorite songs (and keep the headphones in place long enough to work). She named her headphones after Niels Finsen, who pioneered using light to treat skin diseases. "Phototherapy has been overshadowed for decades due to the popularity and ease of use of antibiotics," Leanne says. "[But] it is very versatile and has endless possibilities."
Leanne was thrilled when her Finsen Headphones were selected as finalists, particularly after watching her older sister Kara Fan attend and win in 2019 for her nanoparticle liquid bandages. She was shocked and delighted to win the top prize as well, and she has big plans for ongoing development of her invention, including clinical trials to test how well it works in practice. But she also plans to use some of her winnings for fun, observing that "I’d love to get sushi more often."
Books and Toys For Budding Scientists and Doctors
Creatures all over the forest are getting sick, and Charlotte the bunny scientist is determined to figure out why! The stumped doctors and scientists are dismissive of her efforts, but she holds firm to her beloved grandfather's assertion that she will "make a real difference in the world." After some patient interviews and a few samples from the outhouse, Charlotte realizes that all the sick animals have been munching on carrots contaminated by 'Funky Forest Fungi.' A quick clinical trial later, and Charlotte has saved the tummies of all her friends! This delightful sequel to Charlotte the Scientist Is Squished celebrates the ability of determined girls to change the world.
June Almeida loved science, even as a young girl growing up in Glasgow, Scotland. But even though she was a top student, her family struggled financially and she had to leave school at the age of 16. She was determined, though, to find a way to pursue a scientific career and she was hired by a local hospital to work in its lab. There, she proved that she had an incredible talent for using a microscope to examine cells, making discoveries that helped doctors treat patients. And after years of working with electron microscopes and identifying viruses, she made a very special discovery — the first human coronavirus! This fascinating picture book, which includes a timeline and photos of June and her historic virus photographs in the back matter, celebrates a pioneering virologist whose groundbreaking work continues to help researchers today in the fight against illnesses caused by viruses, including COVID-19.
When Patricia Bath was coming of age, the intelligent young woman was determined to become a doctor, but she had many obstacles in her way: sexism, racism, and poverty all seemed to be working against her. Despite it all, she broke new ground for both women and African Americans in her chosen field of ophthalmology. In 1981, Bath invented the Laserphaco Probe, a quick and nearly painless way to treat cataracts — one which has now been used on millions of patients around the world! This inspiring story from the Amazing Scientists picture book series, which includes a note from Bath herself, highlights the power of fighting for a dream. For another inspiring book about Bath, we recommend Patricia's Vision: The Doctor Who Saved Sight for ages 5 to 9.
After Sara Josephine Baker lost her brother and father to typhoid fever, she knew she wanted to be a doctor. But when she graduated in 1898, few people wanted to see a woman doctor, so Dr. Jo took a job in public health working in Hell's Kitchen, one of New York's poorest neighborhoods. She realized that, by improving the health of children, she could improve the health of a whole community. Dr. Jo assigned visiting nurses to new mothers, designed safe infant clothing, set up milk stations, and created training and licensing for midwives — and her work saved over 90,000 children. This picture book biography of a groundbreaking woman in medicine highlights how simple innovations can have an enormous impact.
What does it take to change the world? It takes determination, drive... and curiosity! In this exciting anthology from author Martha Freeman and Google Doodler Katy Wu, kids will meet twenty different female scientists from past and present. Each capsule biography explores the backgrounds and life experiences of these diverse women, and highlights how their curiosity drove their work. From a cure for malaria to a map of the ocean floor, from better zoos to a better understanding of our DNA, this book shows how these women have changed the world — and inspires young readers to imagine how they can change it, too!
This charmingly illustrated and educational book highlights the contributions of fifty notable women to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics from the ancient to the modern world. Full of striking, singular art, this fascinating collection profiles well-known figures like primatologist Jane Goodall, as well as lesser-known pioneers such as Katherine Johnson, the African-American physicist and mathematician who calculated the trajectory of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon. Women in Science celebrates the achievements of the intrepid women who have paved the way for the next generation of female engineers, biologists, mathematicians, doctors, astronauts, physicists, and more!
From 19th century battlefield nurses Clara Barton and Florence Nightingale, to modern medical miracle workers like Dr. Catherine Hamlin and Dr. Bonnie Simpson Mason, women have long played a key role in medicine — but their contributions have often been downplayed or forgotten. In this fascinating new title from the Women of Action series, readers get to meet some of the daring and trailblazing women of the past two hundred years of medicine. These women defied prejudices and expectations, created incredible new procedures, and devoted their lives to healing people around the world.
She can learn about how the body works with this magnetic dress-up doll from Melissa and Doug! Place magnets on the body form to help kids visualize the skeleton, the circulatory system, the organs, and more. Anatomically correct magnets for both boys and girls are included, perfect for mixed groups. It's an excellent choice for the would-be doctor or anatomist on your list!
Who knew bacteria could be so fascinating? With this kit from Evviva Sciences, kids get everything they need to grow and study their own bacterial cultures. Ten prepoured agar plates provide an excellent growing medium, and ten sterile cotton swabs will let her collect some samples. The included guide shows her everything she needs to know to start exploring the world of microbes.
The incredible inner workings of the human body are beautifully portrayed in this double-sided educational floor puzzle from Dr. Livingston! This puzzle series features detailed and accurate anatomy puzzles, and this 100-piece floor puzzle is just the right size for medically curious kids. The completed puzzle is 4 feet long so kids can imagine how their own body works! Plus, the large, sturdy pieces ensure kids can assemble it over and over.
Get into the world of bacteria, fungi, and viruses with this set from Nancy B.'s Science Club! Kids will culture harmless microbes in the included petri dishes, then use the colony counting grid to check their populations. Kids can examine questions like what temperature makes microbes go faster and even test the "5-second rule"! An included journal provides experiment ideas, plus a place to record all her findings.
Check out the microscopic world around us with ease thanks to this handheld digital microscope from National Geographic. This rechargeable wireless microscope is simple to use, with a tilting 4.3 inch LCD screen that's easy to use both inside and out. A push-button zoom allows you to quickly magnify objects up to 800x. With the built-in camera and included SD card, you can even record photos and video! Everything you need is inside the box, including samples to check out and a detailed learning guide.