Naomi Shah


This Rock Star Teen Scientist Designed a Sustainable Air Filter

Teen scientist Naomi Shah is making it a whole lot easier for allergy sufferers to breathe.

A couple years ago, someone told me that "scientists can be rock stars too." Although these words resonated with me, a March phone call from Intel informing me that I was one of 40 finalists in the Intel Science Talent Search caught me completely off-guard. When that call happened, my life stopped for a moment. (In reality, I actually scrambled to find a pencil and paper to write down the information I was getting over the phone, so technically my life didn't stop, but still.) Becoming an Intel Science Talent Search finalist was something I had been looking forward to since middle school when a judge at a science fair explained what it was. The thought of presenting my research to well-established judges and sharing it with 40 accomplished high school students was exciting, and I'm glad I never gave up on this goal.

My journey in science research started in sixth grade, when I noticed both my dad and brother suffering from chronic allergy symptoms that persisted well past the pollen season. I knew there had to be something exacerbating these symptoms, but I didn't know exactly what it was. When my sixth-grade teacher marched us to the library to work on researching topics for our first science fair, I started out with the generic prompts like "inclined planes" and "hovercrafts." But, 10 minutes later, I typed in "causes of allergies," just out of curiosity. I ended up at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency site, and for the past six and a half years, that link has been in my "most visited" list of websites as I've continued and deepened my research. This was the beginning of my first project, which was about how air filters impact pollutants in homes.

Since then, my research has grown substantially. Fueled by a personal connection to lung disorders in my family, I immersed myself into my research. In the past few years, I have independently tested the air quality and lung health of more than 100 human test subjects to statistically analyze the correlation between indoor air pollution and human lung health. I created a unique mathematical model that predicts a person's lung health based on both pathophysiological and environmental factors.

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