Indian-American teen Kavya Kopparapu conferred National STEM Education Award for invention to improve brain cancer treatment

Harvard Freshman heads Girls Computing League, a nonprofit empowering young women in science and technology

By Geeta Goindi

March 2, 2019 – Indian-American science whiz Kavya Kopparapu, 19, of Herndon, Virginia, has been conferred with the 2019 National STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Education Award for her ground-breaking invention designed to improve treatments for glioblastoma, the deadliest form of brain cancer.

The $10,000 award, a no-strings attached honor given by STEM Education USA, recognizes Kavya as an “extraordinarily talented and accomplished” individual “who has meaningfully promoted STEM education”.

A freshman at Harvard University studying computer science and biology, the budding scientist has invented GlioVision, a precision medicine platform powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) that predicts brain tumor characteristics in a fraction of the time and cost of traditional methods by using a scanned image of a biopsy rather than a DNA sample. It is a major step to targeted treatment for patients with cancer which uses a deep learning computer system to determine the molecular and genetic signature of a brain tumor with 100 percent accuracy. Kavya has been recognized for her commendable efforts to battle a rare but deadly disease, and to encourage others to pursue their expertise in STEM-related fields.

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A social entrepreneur and changemaker, Kavya is the founder and CEO of Girls Computing League, a nonprofit organization which has raised over $100,000 for computer science programming that impacts more than 3,800 American students. The mission of the organization is to empower young women and under-represented groups in computer science, AI, and technology. It regularly hosts workshops for girls who lack access to computing and science resources.

“I love to share my passion for computer science as it has given me a world of opportunities and I would like to see other girls succeed”, Kavya says on the GirlsComputingLeague web-site.

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At 16, the STEM advocate designed a 3D-printed, machine learning-powered eye disease diagnosis system. It was a cheap, portable AI system to diagnose diabetic retinopathy, a common eye infliction that her grandfather suffers from, which often goes undetected and leads to blindness.

“I want to be known as a computer scientist who happens to be a girl”, she says.

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Kavya is an alumni of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, a STEM magnet school in Northern Virginia, and no novice to awards and laurels. The accomplished innovator is a 2018 Regeneron Science Talent Search Finalist, US Presidential Scholar, 2017 WebMD Health Hero, Thiel Fellowship Finalist, Davidson Institute for Talent Development Scholar Laureate, and among Time magazine’s most influential teens of 2018.

An experienced speaker, she has delivered talks at the Smithsonian Institution, NASA Kennedy Space Center, and participated in several AI conferences.

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