From protecting our oceans to detecting cancer, join some of the world's top explorers as they share their work in the field. This panel kicks off National Geographic's Explorers Symposium, one of the year's most highly anticipated events.
Jack Andraka is a Maryland high school sophomore who, at age 15, invented an inexpensive and sensitive dipstick-like sensor for the rapid and early detection of pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancers. After a close family friend died of pancreatic cancer, Jack (then a ninth grader) became interested in finding a better early-detection diagnostic test. He learned that the lack of a rapid, low-cost early screening method contributed to the poor survival rate among individuals with pancreatic cancer. After thinking further about the problem, he came up with a plan and a budget to put his ideas in motion.
He contacted about 200 research professionals at Johns Hopkins University and the National Institutes of Health about his plan. He got 199 rejection letters and then finally got an acceptance from Dr. Anirban Maitra, Professor of Pathology, Oncology and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, who became his mentor. It was at Dr. Maitra’s lab where Jack developed his test.
The diagnostic method he developed is more than 90 percent accurate in detecting the presence of pancreatic cancer's biomarker protein called mesothelin. This discovery earned him the grand prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, where he received the $75,000 Gordon E. Moore Award – named for Intel’s co-founder – after competing with 1,500 other young scientists from 70 countries.
Since then, Jack has won the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Youth Award and has spoken at the Clinton Global Initiative, FutureMed, Chicago Ideas Week, Singularity U, and numerous TED events across the globe. He has been the subject of several documentaries, including Morgan Spurlock’s Sundance Film Festival entry You Don’t Know Jack, and Linda Peter’s award-winning film Just Jack. He has also been featured on ABC’s World News with Diane Sawyer, CNN, BBC, FOX, Rede Record de Televisão, and many radio, newspaper, and magazine articles around the world.
Jack is a member of the National Junior Wildwater Kayak Team, is a Life Scout, and has won numerous awards in national and international math competitions.
Conservation biologist Shivani Bhalla, a fourth-generation Kenyan, is working to safeguard the future of Kenya's rapidly declining lion populations. She is founder and executive director of Ewaso Lions, a conservation organization that uses scientific research and community outreach to promote coexistence between people and lions who share habitats. It is the only organization that focuses on lions that live both inside and outside protected areas in northern Kenya. There are now fewer than 2,000 lions in Kenya, and they could vanish within two decades if habitat loss and conflict with humans continues. Ewaso Lions's innovative community outreach programs, which involve young tribal warriors as well as women and children, are helping foster local support for conservation. Her team has dramatically changed local attitudes, and the lion population she monitors has grown to its highest numbers in a dozen years.
Dr. Enric Sala is a marine ecologist who fell in love
with the sea growing up on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. Witnessing
the harm people do to the oceans led him to dedicate his career to
understand and find ways to mitigate human impacts on marine life. After
obtaining a Ph.D. in ecology from the University of Aix-Marseille,
France, Sala moved to the United States for ten years, where he was a
professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. In 2006, he moved back
to Spain to hold the first position on marine conservation ecology at
the Spanish National Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), and in 2008
he became a National Geographic fellow. Combining work at both
institutions, Sala is actively engaged in research, exploration,
communication, and application of scientific knowledge related to the
conservation of marine ecosystems.
Sala is a 2005 Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow, a
2006 Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation, a 2007 National Geographic
Emerging Explorer, and a 2008 Young Global Leader at the World Economic
Forum in Davos. He also received the 2006 Prince of Asturias Award for
Communication and Humanities with National Geographic. Sala's experience
and scientific expertise contributes to his service on scientific
advisory boards of international environmental organizations.
Author and campaigner Tristram Stuart is a renowned activist waging a worldwide war against food waste. One-third of the world's food is wasted from plow to plate. The planet's one billion hungry people could be fed on less than a quarter of the food wasted in the United States, United Kingdom, and Europe. Irrigation used to grow food that is thrown away could meet the domestic water needs of nine billion people. The scale of food waste was largely unexposed and unaddressed until Stuart's book Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal was published, and his grassroots initiatives lifted the topic to priority status worldwide. In 2009, he launched Feeding the 5000 in London. This free public feast of food that would otherwise be wasted has been replicated around the world. His "Pig Idea" campaign seeks to change laws that restrict using food waste to feed pigs. He also has successfully campaigned for U.K. retailers to relax strict cosmetic standards for fruit and vegetables, and his Gleaning Network initiative sends thousands of volunteers into fields to harvest surplus produce that would otherwise rot. The food is then given to U.K. charities that distribute it to the hungry.