Behind the scenes at Scientific American

Meet the Science in Action Finalists, Part 2


On May 21, the 13 finalists of the $50,000 Scientific American Science in Action award, powered by the Google Science Fair, were announced. In this blog series, we shed light on the students behind the projects. On June 6, the winner of Science in Action award will be announced.

Carlos Vega Garc a, a 13 year-old from Las Palmas de Gran Canar a, Spain

Project: Smartphones for Early Detection of Cardiovascular Risk

What does being recognized as a Science in Action Award finalist mean to you?

It has been a very rewarding to see my project acknowledged in this way as it is my hope that this project could help save lives. It was actually a personal achievement that I finished it in time.

Who are your scientific inspirations and why?

Popular scientific magazines are one of my main sources of inspiration. I love to see how researchers solve their problems. Their work inspires me to find new ways to answer my own questions.

What do you think was the most revolutionary invention of the past 100 years and why? The past 10 years?

In my opinion the most important invention of the last hundred years has been the microchip. Most objects that are used today contain microchips and there is an infinite possibility of new discoveries and inventions. The microchips have also changed the way we communicate. A clear example of this is cellular phones and the internet. As a recent invention of the last ten years, I think GPS is a breakthrough.

If you could travel through time, what one invention or discovery would you want to introduce 100 years ahead of schedule and why?

I would have loved to discover penicillin as it would have saved millions of lives during the First World War.

Catherine Wong, a16-year-old from Morristown, N.J.

Project: Design and Evaluation of a Cell-Phone Compatible Telemedicine System

Why did you decide to enter the Google Science Fair?

I chose to enter the Google Science Fair because it offered an unparalleled chance to share a global problem with a greater audience, but also because I believed that the fair offered one of the greatest opportunities for gathering the resources to move further with this project. It held the promise of working towards real, tangible change, and the spirit of the fair – embracing young scientists hoping to present real research – was something that attracted me early on. The Science in Action project actually played a major part in my entry; it suggested that the fair would be celebrating not only hard science, but also application – futures, ideas.

Who are your scientific inspirations and why?

I’ve always been fascinated by science writers – the best ones manage a brilliant balancing act between weaving a story and conveying hard facts. I devoured science writing as a child, books and articles that outdid any fiction because their stories were real; some of my favorites were Oliver Sacks’s powerfully intimate case studies on the intricacies of the brain, or Jonah Lehrer’s often counter-intuitive anecdotes.

However, the other day I read an article about an engineer, Hugh Herr, who works at MIT designing more natural prostheses. He’s a double amputee himself, and his results are unbelievable. I would be hard pressed to think of a scientist who is less inspiring.

If you could have dinner with any three scientists throughout time, whom would you choose?

Richard Feynman, Nikola Tesla, and Archimedes. I imagine that the dinner table conversation would be fantastic, and the three of them might reinvent the world over dessert.

If you could travel through time, what one invention or discovery would you want to introduce 100 years ahead of schedule and why?

Penicillin – the lives saved would probably have allowed for 100 other discoveries to be introduced ahead of schedule along with it.

Andrew Chen, a 14-year-old from Beaverton, Ore.

Project: Effects of Magnetic Fields on Cellular Systems

What does being recognized as a Science in Action Award finalist mean to you?

Being recognized as a Science in Action Award finalist is a true honor to me. It validates what I try to bring to public attention is not irrelevant. It means that our scientific society recognizes that water contamination is a very important problem worldwide. Being a developed nation, our society has the most resources and the best ability to fight against issues such as water contamination. I hope that by being a Science in Action Award finalist, I can be an inspiration to get society into action in combating this problem. That would make me very happy.

What do you think was the most revolutionary invention of the past 100 years and why? The past 10 years?

I personally believe that the antibiotic was the most revolutionary invention of the past 100 years. Before antibiotics, medical treatments were based on medicinal folklore and spiritual superstitions. As a result, before antibiotics, almost everybody eventually died due to infectious diseases. Hardly anyone died of old age before the advent of antibiotics. In humanity’s more recent history, our world’s population is getting older and older, with a large majority now dying due to old age, not due to pathogenic infections. This dramatic decrease in the deaths caused by infectious diseases, and the subsequent increase in life expectancy, is mainly a result of antibiotics.

In the last 10 years, I believe the most revolutionary invention of the last ten years is social media. The launching of sites such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter have changed the way that individuals and groups share information. Information and entertainment have all been delivered by different forms of social media. Since late 2010, social media has played a major role in transmitting news from the Arab Spring. With the growing influence of social media, all it takes is for one simple catalyst to release a wave of fame or embarrassment. Due to its widespread influence and its ability to immediately impact our lives, I believe that social media is the most revolutionary invention of the last ten years.

What is your favorite hobby?

My favorite hobby would be composing music. Not the classical music that people associate with composition, but rather melodic electronica. I dislike being inhibited from pursuing newly formed goals on a whim. The composition of melodic electronica allows me to make music that isn’t inhibited by instrument selection nor tonal quality. If I want to compose music that sounds specifically sounds a certain way, I’m not inhibited by the barriers that composers of non-electronic music face.

I take inspiration for composing my electronica through other similar works. My favorite song is Something by Azedia. It’s an invigorating piece of music, and even though it’s electronica, it has a tempo that is slow enough to calm you down. It is the most captivating piece of music that I have heard.


The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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