The National Geographic Society has announced its selection for the 2014 Emerging Explorers program, an annual list of young men and women who have had an important impact on their particular area of research, even at a relatively early stage of their career. As usual, the list is filled with scientists, adventurers, and conservationists who are pushing the envelope in some incredibly diverse fields of study. This year’s list also happens to include the youngest person ever to earn the distinction of being named an Emerging Explorer, a 17-year-old inventor who could potentially change medical care as we know it.
The 2014 class of Emerging Explorers includes 14 individuals, each conducting research in some fascinating fields. They include marine biologist David Gruber, who researches the intricate methods of communications employed by bioluminescent and biofluorescent sea life. He’s joined by Shivani Bhalla, a conservation biologist who is working to protect lion populations in Kenya, and paleontologist Nizar Ibrahim, who discovered a new species of flying dinosaur in Northern Africa. Other explorers include a nanoscientist working to improve solar power, a writer campaigning against food waste, and an environmentalist working to educate people on the environment in her home country of Mexico.
As usual, each of the Emerging Explorers is an impressive individual, but this year, one young man really stands out from the crowd. He is Jack Andraka, the youngest ever member of the program at 17 years of age. Jack earned his spot on Nat Geo’s list by inventing a cheap, effective, and easy to administer test that can detect pancreatic, lung, and ovarian cancer in its early stages, potentially saving thousands of lives. He says that his test has a 90% accuracy rate, is 400 times more sensitive, 168 times faster, and far more inexpensive than the tests that are being widely used today. Furthermore, Jack holds the patent on this new test, and hopes to bring it to market sometime in the next decade. Perhaps even more promising, he believes the test could be applied to a variety of other diseases as well, possibly revolutionizing medical care around the globe.
Along with the honor of being named one of National Geographic’s Emerging Explorers, these young professionals are also awarded a $10,000 grant to further aid them in their work. To read about all of the members of the 2014 Emerging Explorers class, click here.