Annapolis, Maryland, USA, February 2014
PHOTOGRAPHY + SOUND
interviews to: Jane, Jack, Steve Andraka
audio post-production: Giuseppe Catalano
produced by: BNP Parisbas
Jack Thomas Andraka (born 1997) is an American inventor, scientist and cancer researcher. He is the recipient of the 2012 Gordon E. Moore Award, the grand prize of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Andraka was awarded the $75,000 Award, named in honor of the co-founder of Intel Corporation, for his work in developing a new, rapid, and inexpensive method to detect an increase of a protein that indicates the presence of pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancer during their early stages when there is a better survival rate than when they are diagnosed later. In addition to the Gordon E. Moore Award, Andraka also won other prizes in smaller individual categories for a total of $100,500 in prize money. Andraka won a fourth-place award in Chemistry at the 2013 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair with a project focusing on a novel Raman spectrometer with real world applications.
Jack Andraka was born in Crownsville, Maryland. He has given a number of accounts of what inspired him to work on pancreatic cancer, including the death of a family friend whom he described as almost an uncle. These various narratives have been told by him as recently as his talk in TED xNijmegen 2013. In looking for answers, he found that one reason for the poor survival rate from pancreatic cancer was the lack of early detection and a rapid, sensitive, inexpensive screening method. According to his account, his teenage optimism left him undeterred, and he went on to consult “a teenager’s two best friends: Google and Wikipedia”, also drawing upon content from YouTube. He began to think of various ways of detecting and preventing cancer growth and terminating the growth before the cancer cells become invasive.
In an interview with the BBC, Andraka said the idea for his pancreatic cancer test came to him while he was in biology class at North County High School, drawing on the class lesson about antibodies and the article on analytical methods using carbon nanotubes he was surreptitiously reading in class at the time. Afterward, he followed up with more research using Google Search on nanotubes and cancer biochemistry, aided by free online scientific journals. He then contacted 200 professors at Johns Hopkins University and the National Institutes of Health with a plan, a budget, and a timeline for his project, hoping to receive laboratory help.
He received 199 rejection emails before he got a positive reply from Anirban Maitra, Professor of Pathology, Oncology, and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. The result of his project was a new dipstick type diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer using a novel paper sensor, similar to that of the diabetic test strip.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
To approach Jack and his already very well known story, Susanna Pozzoli decided to concentrate on his family and how they managed to encourage and help their son. Pozzoli went to their house in Maryland and stayed at their place. She followed Jack to school and watch him working, chatting, discussing with his beloved mother. She took photographs, recorded everyday life and enjoyed their company. The result of this full immersion in Andraka’s life is a sound work based on interviews and a series of photographs. The goal is not to celebrate the VIP young scientist but to give an inside view of a very well-balanced and harmonious family. In Jane’s words (Jack’s mother) we can listen to a precise concept of education and parental practice.
Jack is a genius: no doubt about his creativity, his understanding and his brain capacities but all those qualities have been helped and supported by his parents and brother in a very smart way. It is the relationship between the young adult (still in between his childhood and a complete adult life) and his family that plays a central role in this commissioned work made for WAVE exhibition, a project by BNP Paribas.