November is Diabetes Awareness Month and two sisters are putting their minds together to research scientific solutions for managing the diagnosis.
15-year-old Katherine isn’t just any high school freshman at NSU University School, she engineered an artificial pancreas.
The creation got her second place in her school science fair as part of the biomedical engineering category in Broward County.
She was inspired by her younger sister, Sophia, who was diagnosed with Type I diabetes in January of 2020.
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“Since my sister was diagnosed, I knew that I had to do a project based off of her diagnosis not only to educate my sister and my family, but to educate others like newly diagnosed Type I diabetics so this was the inspiration for my project,” Katherine said.
After she saw her sister pricking herself to check her blood sugar levels, Katherine thought there had to be a better way.
To create the artificial pancreas, she worked closely with her school’s robotics team to build the breadboard circuit and then tested her hypothesis using her sister’s blood sugar levels as a guide.
“I found that the artificial pancreas system was able to keep the blood sugar levels in range in comparison to the regular insulin injections," Katherine said. "It was able to keep it in range for two hours longer which is very important to diabetics to have their sugar in range without those fluctuating highs and low levels."
13-year-old Sophia, who was managing the highs and lows of her diagnosis, was touched by her sister’s support.
“I was so proud that my sister wanted to do a protect about me that I was really emotional and happy for her,” Sophia said.
Dr. Robin Nemery, who treats Sophia at Joe DiMagggio Children’s Hospital, was thrilled with Katherine’s results as cases of diabetes have spiked during the pandemic.
“Nationwide, we have seen an increase in Type I diabetes. Is it because of Covid? We can’t really say," said Dr. Nemery, the Chief of Pediatric Endocrinology at Joe DiMaggio. "What we can say is statistics have shown that there’s been a doubling of Type II diabetes during the Covid pandemic, which is directly related to the fact that children have been staying home and have been eating more and gaining a tremendous amount of weight."
Katherine is hoping her research can encourage others to get into STEM careers and help treat patients like her sister in the future.
“It’s important that we recognize what type I diabetes is and just bring awareness to let these patients know that we’re with them and we just need to help them and understand their situation,” Katherine said.
“I hope that she will think about a career in either medicine or biomedical engineering because I think that she has a great mind to do that and I love the fact that she did it all for her sister,” Dr. Nemery said.