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Eye On Education: Boston Latin Student Wins Award For Work On Cancer Cells

By Paula Ebben, WBZ-TV
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BOSTON (CBS) – The Boston area is blessed with some of the greatest minds in the world.  It is common to hear of a local inventor or medical researcher breaking ground in their respective field.

Nathan Han is one of those home-grown intellects. He just received an international award for his work tracking cancer cell mutations.

The big difference in Nathan’s case is that he isn’t even old enough to drive yet.

Han, a 15-year-old freshman at the Boston Latin School, just won the $75,000 Gordon E. Moore Award, in the category of medicine and health sciences, at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

Han took home the top prize for creating a software tool that detects cancer causing gene mutations.

“I focused on breast cancer and this particular gene called BRCA 1 because a few years ago we visited a close family friend and I found out that she had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and BRCA 1 is, has been, identified as a primary risk factor in ovarian cancer,” explained Han.

What is amazing is Han was able to do his by trolling through public data bases and accessing information available to anyone.

“I just find it incredibly fascinating that there is so much cutting edge data out there and that a high school kid in his basement with a computer can just look it up and retrieve it. It was definitely really cool,’ said Han with a big smile.

Han believes the key to hooking kids on science is to start young.  “My interest in science started around fifth or sixth grade,” he said.

A career in medicine or biology is very intriguing to Han, but he knows he has some time to figure out the specifics. “I still have to get thru high school.”

Most of the prize money will be targeted for college, but Han said he might use some of it this summer.  He’d like to take some science classes.

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