Young Innovators: Women of Ingenuity
These successful women in their 20s and 30s are reshaping the world with an innovative smart phone app, water purification breakthroughs, medical patents, and more.
What is it that you hold a patent in?
It’s a diagnostic test that allows lab technologists and clinicians to quickly and accurately detect when cancer patients are rejecting a bone marrow transplant.
Besides having done impressive work like that, you’re also a major advocate for girls to pursue their passion, not just in STEM, but in STEAM. Can you explain the extra letter?
Yes, sometimes students think that they have to choose between their passions. However, I am a very strong supporter of adding the “a” denoting art. One of my dreams is to write and publish a STEAM-themed picture book series. I’ve already written the first book, Abby Invents Unbreakable Crayons, which stars a female inventor. I want to show girls through Abby Invents as well as my personal story that when they see a problem in the world, they can use their smarts to invent a useful solution.
I’ve heard Hipcamp called “the Airbnb of the outdoors.” What does your smartphone app do? Getting outside was always when I felt happiest and healthiest, and I just wanted to make that available to a lot more people who were searching to experience the outdoors, including camping. It seems like a good use of the internet.
Do people need an app to go camping though?
So, there were lots of things wrong with the camping experience, such as park websites at every level — local, state, and national — that probably had not been updated in decades. The first version of Hipcamp aggregated the public campgrounds, and it showed that the main problem is that there are simply not enough good places to camp out there to meet all the demand. Hipcamp’s focused on creating more places to get outside by partnering with private landowners. And that’s really solving the underlying problem.
Do you think that women have an especially important role in noticing how tech can be used for the common good the way you did with Hipcamp?
It’s no secret that the vast majority of our culture today has been created by men. And so that can feel intimidating, especially when you find yourself being one of the only, or the only, woman in a room. But that means that women have a superpower right now. They see the opportunities that others don’t, and they’re able to come into a situation and just see something that people have been missing for decades and decades.
What is it that you discovered?
I discovered a new application for an existing water treatment polymer which produced two peer-reviewed publications in the Journal of Environmental Quality in 2013 and 2015 and culminated in a National Champion award from the Siemens Competition in December 2015.
What inspired you to focus on water treatment?
Being from Florida, I was well aware of the problem of water contamination in the Everglades from things such as hand sanitizers and pharmaceuticals. My idea was that maybe these water treatment polymers or resins would be able to help solve this widespread problem of ground and surface water contamination from man-made chemicals. I focused on a particularly prevalent drug, Sulfamethazine, that is commonly used in the treatment of livestock and leads to water contamination in rural areas. After multiple tests, I managed to find a resin that worked extremely well at removing the Sulfamethazine, and which had never been reported before!
Any advice for those in high school considering a career in STEM?
What I would recommend to soon-to-be college students is to think about what you are passionate about. If you love what you do, it will all work out.