The high schooler who invented a promising test for pancreatic cancer: A Q&A with ‘teenage optimist’ Jack Andraka

TED Blog


Jack Andraka is not your typical teenager. The soon-to-be high school junior spends his free time in the science lab concocting better, cheaper ways to spot disease. One such project — a test for the early detection of pancreatic cancer — won Andraka first place in the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

As Andraka explains in today’s talk, his “teenage optimism” played a big role in this accomplishment. [ted_talkteaser id=1787]At age 13, after losing a close family friend to pancreatic cancer, Andraka began researching the disease to better understand what had happened. Andraka was shocked to find that 85 percent of all pancreatic cancer cases are diagnosed late, when a patient has less than a 2 percent chance of survival. Alarmed at the lack of affordable and accurate tests to detect this cancer at its earliest stages — when treatments can actually work — he pored…

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Mark’s birth


Eileen and I have to settle down together in our new home with the new car and she with the new job. There was a lot to do in the garden. This plot of land had included  a stone  quarry and had also been used for waste disposal from our local hospital. Close to the rear of the House was a drop of some 15 feet which revealed the quarry face. From the rear windows of the House we looked out at the tops of  acacia and silver birch trees. These trees grew up from the lower part of the garden 15 ft below. Indoors there was still work to be done. Decoration was not complete and tiling in the bathroom.

Meanwhile we advertised for tenants for all the rooms upstairs. But due to the shortage of accommodation we had many applicants. All seemed worthy tenant’s but when a top sergeant in the…

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Write about your strongest memory of heart-pounding belly-twisting nervousness: what caused the adrenaline? Was it justified? How did you respond?