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Jack Andraka's Pancreatic Cancer Breakthrough

At age 15, this high school sophomore and Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award winner invented a new way to diagnose a deadly form of cancer.


Conversation Club

  1. At the beginning of this video, Jack Andraka is described as a “prodigy.” Had you heard that term before? What other people would you describe as “prodigies” and why?
  2. Jack Andraka was only fifteen when this video was made. What interests or hobbies did you have (or do you have) as a child or young adult? How did those early interests help shape who you are today or the career path you are taking as an adult?
  3. Andraka talks about a personal tragedy that motivated him to study pancreatic cancer. What do you think of tragedy as a source of motivation? What are other meaningful sources of motivation?
  4. When describing his new test for pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancer, Andraka emphasizes that it is better because it is cheaper and faster. Can you think of examples of other diseases that are now easier to treat because of a breakthrough in detection or treatment? What disease do you hope will next be the focus for such a breakthrough?
  5. Andraka says that he sent over 200 emails to different professors asking if he could join their lab to conduct his research. Only one agreed. What do you make of this story? Can you think of a situation in your own life where perseverance has paid off?
  6. Andraka describes winning a youth science competition. Can you think of competitions in your own country that are similar? What do you think is the value in competitions like this?
  7. Andraka talks about “getting lost from the message of helping people.” What do you think he means?
  8. Andraka ends the video by saying that he wants to change society. He hopes that people can better understand that a person’s ideas count, regardless of that person’s age, gender, or ethnicity. Can you think of an example where an idea was heard because of who suggested it? What about an example where an idea wasn’t heard because of who suggested it?

Video Series

This video exists as part of a series gathered around the theme of Environment & STEM. Other videos in this series are listed below.

Best Views of the Grand Canyon
Best Views of the Grand Canyon
Visualizing One Earth
Visualizing One Earth
Can We Solve Climate Change?
Can We Solve Climate Change?
Jack Andraka's Pancreatic Cancer Breakthrough
Jack Andraka's Pancreatic Cancer Breakthrough
Pardis Sabeti's New Look at Infectious Disease
Pardis Sabeti's New Look at Infectious Disease
Hugh Herr’s Bionic Future
Hugh Herr’s Bionic Future
Why Scan a 3-D Dinosaur?
Why Scan a 3-D Dinosaur?
Can Ocean Optimism Save our Seas?
Can Ocean Optimism Save our Seas?
What is the Future of Nature?
What is the Future of Nature?