Not only is she living proof that age is just a number, but the 17 year old Egyptian Deena Mousa invented a medical device that stops bleeding in 5 to 10 seconds, instead of the one currently used in hospitals, which stops bleeding in up to 12 minutes.
The young scientist is an Egyptian who was born and raised in America. Her parents are purely Egyptian, but they moved to America after college. She spends her summers in Egypt. She is a freshman at Yale University.
Over time this terrific genius participated in a lot of different science fairs, some of them were local in the United States, and some were international. Most importantly, She entered the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. It brings in students from over 72 different countries, so she got in and she won a NASA award, a Google award, and third place in the category of biomedical and health sciences.
How did it all start with your latest invention?
Well, when I started two years ago, I was doing research in a lab and I wanted to study something that impacted a lot of people but was maybe not getting quite as much attention as other fields of science. Not something like cancer, which is now obviously and deservedly getting a lot of funding, time and energy. I found that uncontrolled bleeding is the leading cause of death on battle fields, and the second leading cause of death in all hospitals, so I did some research into how effective the current standard of care was. When I found that it took up to 12 minutes to stop bleeding, I was frustrated that it seemed that we hadn’t really invested the proper amount of time into finding something better.
Where did you test out your theoretical findings?
I used to spend a lot of time in a lab in Albany College of pharmacy. In my case, I was fortunate, because my father already works in pharmaceutical research, so he was able to help me use his lab.
Why do you think you were the one to come up with this?
It’s a difficult question to answer. No one can know what factor lead them to actually be the one to discover something. It’s a combination of luck, time, energy, and just a different way of looking at things.
How did it feel in the moment you found out your medical device was effective?
Well, there was no particular moment; it was a really slow process over the course of the year. I had this idea, I thought theoretically this could work, I tested it out, it then got a little bit better, and I slowly improved the composition until it came to the point where it is now. But eventually it felt great.
So, what’s next?
It’s a long road ahead with the medical approvals and getting my medical device to the market. It’s going to take some time. I am currently working through the process. I am focusing on the details of my business model right now, whether I want to license out production to a manufacturing company or not. I still haven’t decided.
Did anyone ever criticize you or think that this is some kind of joke?
I don’t think anyone ever thinks a 15-year old girl working in the lab will necessarily come up with something. But my environment has been incredibly supportive.
If you had to pick one person that was supportive of you, who would that be?
My dad, totally.
Are your conversations with your dad usually purely scientific?
Well, growing up, a lot of dinner conversations would be about what he was doing in the lab, so that’s what initially got me very interested in the sciences, but obviously we talk about other stuff too.
What are your other hobbies? What do you like to do outside the lab?
I am currently on the debate team in Yale. We go on tournaments and debate with other schools on absolutely any topic; it could be science, politics, anything!
Who is your idol?
Dr. Martine Rothblatt. She was a very successful researcher in the field of telecommunication. She was very instrumental, but after her daughter was diagnosed with pulmonary arterial hypertension, she quit her job and sat in the hospital bed next to her daughter all day reading scientific papers, and eventually she went to work in a lab and was able to find a cure for her daughter’s fatal disease. I find it incredible, that she was able to leave her field and area of expertise, to just go into this new area, and find a cure for something that was been previously incurable. I think that’s an incredible amount of drive.
Do you think that even after winning an award from NASA and Google, the Middle Eastern/Egyptian media didn’t give you the attention you deserve?
No, I don’t think that I necessarily would have wished for more than the attention I actually got. I think I’ve been very fortunate, and people have been very receptive to my research.
Throughout your journey, and up until now, did you face any obstacles? How do you deal with them?
Of course, it’s just the natural course of science; doing an experiment and finding that it didn’t work out quite how I wanted it to was always frustrating. I’d have to go back and figure out why I didn’t get the results I expected.
What’s your advice to other 17-year-old girls who lack external encouragement?
I would advise them to never let go of their curiosity and their need to ask questions.
Tell us about your personal vision for your future?
I am hoping to major in molecular biology, and I want to do research for a living in the future.
What scares you about the future?
I am more excited than scared, but if I had to name one thing, it would be uncertainty.
Do you think that someday you’ll move to Egypt and pursue your career here?
Yes, I think it’s possible in future, but I am not sure yet.
So, what do women want?
Women want what everyone wants; to live their lives to the fullest!
Image courtesy of Societyforscience.org