Angela ZhangWhat were you doing when you were 17 years old? Shopping at the mall? Playing football? I bet you weren’t working on a cutting edge cure for cancer.

Angela Zhang, 17, has just been awarded the $100,000 Grand Prize in the Individual category of the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology. Her project was called, “Design of Image-guided, Photo-thermal Controlled Drug Releasing Multifunctional Nanosystem for the Treatment of Cancer Stem Cells”.

Her newest creation is being called the “Swiss army knife of cancer treatment.”

Zhang managed to develop a nanoparticle that can be delivered to the site of a cancer tumor through the drug salinomycin. Once there it kills the cancer stem cells.

However, Zhang went the extra mile, including both gold and iron-oxide components which allow for non-invasive imaging of the site through MRI and Photoacoustics.

So why did Zhang choose this project? She explains that she was surprised when looking at the survival rates of patients undergoing cancer treatment. As cancer stem cells are resistant to many forms of cancer treatment, it seemed like an area worth her time and effort.

Her nanoparticle is award-winning as it has the potential to overcome cancer resistance while offering the ability to monitor the effects of the treatment in real-time using existing imaging techniques.

Zhang’s achievement is spectacular. The level of understanding needed to devise of such a nanoparticle is exceptional. Since 2009, she’s spent over 1,000 hours researching and developing the particle, and wants to go on to study chemical engineering, biomedical engineering, or physics.

The Siemens Competition is now in its 13th year and its goal is to feature talent at the high school level for those interested in science research.

Last year 15-year-old Benjamin Clark won the Individual category for his work regarding how stars are born. In 2009, Ruoyi Jiang won for his research on chemotherapy drug resistance.

Zhang says that her dream job is to be a research professor.