Beaverton Valley Times, Ravleen Kaur, Aug 18
When she was four or five years old, Anushka Naiknaware’s favorite place in the whole world was the chemistry lab at Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.
Every week, Anushka would beg her parents to take her to OMSI. There, she’d spend entire days in the museum’s labs, finishing every single experiment available to tinker with before leaving.
“I’ve always loved science because everything you do has a real-life application in the world,” said Anushka, an incoming eighth-grader at Stoller Middle School.
Last week, she found out that she’s a global finalist in the highly competitiveGoogle Science Fair.
Her project contributes to the field of wound management, identifying two critical issues: preventing fatal blood loss and keeping wounds at the proper moisture level to encourage rapid healing.
Next month, she’ll fly to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., to compete for the grand prize against 15 other projects from around the world.
Anushka, who is 13 years old, created a wound dressing using chitosan, a natural polymer found in crustacean shells, which has a remarkable ability to clot blood quickly. She also created a cost-effective sensor that measures the amount of moisture in the wound dressing to help ensure optimal healing.
Anushka has spent her middle school years progressing through the tiers of local, regional, and national science fairs. In every competition, she strives to bring something unique to the table.
Through her work, she’s learned that the so-called STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — all connect. Her project involves medicine, chemistry, physics and computer science.
“I can’t do a science fair project that somebody has already done,” said Anushka. “Personally, I want my idea to be unique. I don’t even care if it fails, but I want it to be my own.”
The data she collects will be stored in an online cloud, making it accessible in situations where bulky equipment isn’t feasible.
While people often focus on notorious medical problems, such as malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS, they sometimes forget to consider that more people die of injuries every year than all of those conditions combined.
Anushka’s project could have huge implications for the military, helping injured soldiers in a rapid and cost-effective manner.
Stoller, understandably, doesn’t allow students to use bacteria or pathogens during experiments. That was hard for Anushka, who researched Ph.D academic articles to find the information she needed for her projects.
“That was definitely a challenge,” said Anushka. She created a water-and-vinegar solution to model the alkalinity and consistency of blood.
“You have to work through, like, a hundred iterations before it finally works, before you finally get it right,” said Anushka.
She lists Nobel Prize-winning scientist Marie Curie as her role model.
“The fact that she was a girl and she kept going in that time period is amazing,” said Anushka.
She’s sometimes faced stereotypes that as a girl, she might not be as invested in STEM fields.
“But if you prove yourself, that goes away,” she said.
Anushka loves to read, figure skate, and watch the Olympics.
“Sometimes, we have to give her a time-out from books,” said her father, Ravi Naiknaware, laughing. “But we just encourage her to pursue what she enjoys.”