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This is Jack Andraka. And trust me, you're going to want to remember that name.

Photo by XPRIZE Foundation/Flickr (altered).



Check out this short video on Jack's unbelievable scientific breakthrough, and then scroll down to see how this teenage whiz kid made it happen.

Jack's beef with pancreatic cancer is a personal one.

At 14, he lost a close family friend to the ruthless and aggressive disease. The pancreas sits deep inside the body and is difficult to scan. There's no hallmark symptom or lump to alert people to the growing danger.

The pancreas (enlarged in red) is nestled right in your abdomen near your liver, stomach, and gallbladder. Image by iStock.

So by the time someone with pancreatic cancer goes to the doctor, it's usually because the disease has spread to other organs. That's why an estimated 72% of patients with pancreatic cancer will die within one year of their diagnosis. And more than 40,000 people die from the disease each year.

But Jack turned his grief into action and set about developing a reliable test for pancreatic cancer.

Passionate about science, Jack ravenously read everything he could about the disease and its biomarkers, characteristics about the disease that are easily measured.

Jack's test for pancreatic cancer is based on a few important but seemingly unrelated ideas. Hold on tight, because it's about to get real science-y in here.

1. Carbon nanotubes are smaller than small — about 1/50,000th the diameter of a human hair. But you can use these microscopic tubes to make tiny networks that conduct electricity.

All GIFs via Upworthy/YouTube.

2. Antibodies like to attach to different proteins in the blood.

3. Mesothelin is one of the biomarkers of pancreatic cancer. It's a protein that the body produces when the cancer is in its early stage.

While Jack was sitting in class one day, it all came together.

As he surreptitiously read an article about carbon nanotubes during class, his biology teacher was giving a lecture on antibodies.

That's when it hit him.

Jack had the brilliant idea to coat a carbon nanotube network with mesothelin. The antibodies would bind to it and get bigger.


As the molecules enlarged, the nanotubes would expand too, changing the network's electrical properties. That change in electricity is quick, easy, and affordable to measure. Eureka!

While Jack had a great working theory, he needed a way to test his hypothesis.

He went home and wrote up his budget, procedure, materials, and timeline, then sent it to 200 cancer research labs, asking for their help. 199 said no.

But one, Dr. Anirban Maitra, then a professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins University and now the chief pancreatic cancer researcher at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, said yes.


With Dr. Maitra's good news, Jack likely did something like this. Photo by iStock.

"It was a very unusual e-mail,” Maitra told Smithsonian Magazine. “I often don’t get e-mails like this from postdoctoral fellows, let alone high-school freshmen.”

Dr. Maitra let him come into the lab at Johns Hopkins to work on his project.

Maitra's yes didn't just come with lab access; it came with the assistance of Maitra's team of Ph.D. researchers, just the kind of team Jack needed to get the job done.

Jack went in after school and on weekends to work on his research. After seven months of preliminary tests and refinements, it started to work.


For his research, Jack has received international recognition and numerous accolades.

Since taking home the 2012 Gordon E. Moore Award, the top prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, Jack has earned awards and honors from organizations around the globe.


Notably, he received the 2012 Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award, named a Champion of Change by the White House, and received a fellowship as a National Geographic Explorer. And Jack (who came out as gay while still in high school), even earned a spot on Advocate's "40 Under 40" list.

Though Jack's test is promising, it's far from a silver bullet.

His work is extremely preliminary and has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal — the industry standard for measuring the merit and veracity of scientific research. Additionally, scientists who have read Andraka's work suggest a need for further research about the speed and price of his test.

Success is within reach but not guaranteed just yet. Photo by iStock.

However, Jack holds a patent on his test and is licensing it to pharmaceutical companies so they can run the often-monotonous clinical trials, a necessary step to ensure patient safety and accurate diagnoses.

"I don't wanna ... end up as a lab rat," Jack said in an interview with "60 Minutes." "I kind of want to be able to come up with a new idea and then really just move on to the next idea, and have other people do the repetitive trials."

In the meantime, Jack, who just turned 19, is keeping busy.

He's a first-year student at Stanford University, gives talks and lectures all over the world, and even co-wrote a memoir, "Breakthrough", about his experience.


And when he's not in the lab, studying for finals, advocating for LGBT youth in STEM careers, or championing pancreatic cancer research, you might find him in his whitewater kayak or catching up with friends and colleagues on social media. You know, typical teenage whiz-kid author/scientist stuff.

He may not fight crime or have special powers, but when it comes to helping others, Jack Andraka has all the makings of a hero.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

Laverne Cox in 2016.

When kids are growing up they love to see themselves in the dolls and action figures. It adds a special little spark to a shopping trip when you hear your child say “it looks just like me.” The beaming smile and joy that exudes from their little faces in that moment is something parents cherish, and Mattel is one manufacturer that has been at the forefront of making that happen. It has created Barbies with freckles, afro puffs, wheelchairs, cochlear implants and more. The company has taken another step toward representation with its first transgender doll.

Laverne Cox, openly transgender Emmy award winning actor and LGBTQ activist, is celebrating her 50th birthday May 29, and Mattel is honoring her with her very own Barbie doll. The doll designed to represent Cox is donned in a red ball gown with a silver bodysuit. It also has accessories like high heels and jewelry to complete the look. Cox told Today, “It’s been a dream for years to work with Barbie to create my own doll.” She continued, “I can’t wait for fans to find my doll on shelves and have the opportunity to add a Barbie doll modeled after a transgender person to their collection.”

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Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.