Google Science Fair winner visits CERN

Google Science Fair Grand Prize winner Brittany Michelle Wenger today wrapped up a day-and-a-half's visit of the CERN site. Her winning project uses an artificial neural network to diagnose breast cancer – a non-invasive technique with significant potential for use in hospitals.


Brittany Michelle Wenger at CERN's SM18 Hall.

Besides winning a $50,000 scholarship from Google and work experience opportunities with some of the contest hosts, Brittany was offered a personal tour of CERN. “This visit has just been incredible,” she says. “I got to speak with [CERN's Director for Accelerators and Technology] Steve Myers about some of the medical applications and technologies coming out of the LHC experiments and how they can be used to treat cancer. We talked about proton therapy and hadron therapy, which could really change the way patients are treated, improving success rates and making treatment not such an excruciating process. That was huge for me.”

Brittany and her mother Camilla visited some of CERN’s most important facilities, including the ATLAS control room, the Antiproton Decelerator facility, the CERN Computing Centre and the LHC superconducting magnet test hall (SM18). “Realising the scale of everything was amazing,” says Brittany. “Today I got to see the GRID in the Computing Centre, which was incredible, especially as I am such a computer science buff.”

Brittany used cloud computing to create her winning project - a computer program that models neural networks to detect complex patterns of cancerous cells in biopsies of breast tissue. “The ultimate goal is for doctors all over the world to be able to access the programme, using it to diagnose patients while contributing more data so that it can 'learn' more and improve," says Brittany. "It’s currently 99.1% sensitive to malignancy and may be hospital-ready. As I get more samples, this should increase."

“These aren’t experiences that come along every day,” she concludes, “and I’ve absolutely loved my time at CERN.”

You can read more about Brittany’s winning project on her Google Science Fair webpage and you can contribute data to the project at Cloud4Cancer.

by Katarina Anthony