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Finding Cancer Cells

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Kelly Zhang

As a 17-year-old student at The College Preparatory School in California, Zhang was named a finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search (Intel STS) 2013 for developing a method to help surgeons visualize tumor margins by staining cancer cells selectively with fluorescent dyes.

The Intel STS is a precollege science competition; alumni have made extraordinary contributions to science and hold more than 100 of the world’s most coveted science and math honors, including the Nobel Prize and the National Medal of Science. The Intel STS recognizes and rewards 300 students, as well as their schools, as semifinalists each year. From that pool, 40 finalists are invited to Washington every March for final judging as well as to display their work to the public, meet with notable scientists and compete for $630,000 in awards, including the top award of $100,000.

For her entry, Zhang adapted drug-delivery nanotechnology concepts to derive a nanoscale imaging agent from a combination of the protein albumin and fluorescent dye, according to Intel. She then incubated a variety of cell lines with the new stain and found that tumor cells became more luminous than healthy cells. She believes her study will contribute to the improvement of cancer imaging techniques for surgeons resecting tumors.

Zhang also has created BioLabScope, a website that seeks to spread the world of science to high school students. The site ( features videos on basic lab science and biology applications that aren’t always taught in high school classrooms.

Photonics Spectra
Aug 2013

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