The big picture
Godika has chosen to submit her entry on the Yamanaka factors and their importance in anti-aging research.
BENGALURU: Bengaluru-based student Sia Godika is one of the only two Indians to have made it to the semi-finals of the prestigious annual Breakthrough Junior Challenge, a global science competition for students to inspire creative thinking about science and mathematics. The Class 12 student from Neev Academy, is among the 30 semi-finalists from across the globe who submitted creative short videos explaining difficult concepts or theories in the life sciences, physics, or mathematics.
Godika has chosen to submit her entry on the Yamanaka factors and their importance in anti-ageing research. Named after Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka, and discovered in the mid-2000s, the Yamanaka factors are special proteins that scientists can use to reprogramme regular cells and turn them into stem cells. Stem cells are the most fundamental cells in the human body, and can turn into many different types of cells. Hence, this Nobel Medical Prize-winning research was an important milestone in medical research that could help treat various diseases in the future, as well as potential research on anti-ageing.
The 17-year-old was inspired to pick the subject for her entry from her own familial experiences. “This topic really hits home because cancer and Parkinson’s Disease have affected both my paternal and maternal grandparents. I got to know about Parkinson’s Disease when I was very young, and ever since, I’ve been reading up about anti-ageing and age reversal.
I was looking at research that explored how to expand one’s health and keep them healthier for a longer period of time. That also led me to work on an app that could potentially detect Parkinson’s earlier, which could have a huge impact on the patient’s quality of life,” Godika adds.
Currently posted on Breakthrough’s YouTube and Facebook handles, Godika’s entry will need to clear the popular vote contest – garnering enough likes from the public – for it to make it to the final. Following this, a set of judges will have to pick her entry among 15 finalists to receive a grand prize of $200,000 in college tuition, along with $50,000 (`50 lakh) for her teacher Arka Moulik who mentored Godika, as well as $100,000 (`1 crore) to Godika’s school to set up a science lab. If she wins, Godika wants to use the scholarship to pay for a university in North America and study computer science.
“I specifically want to work with technology, because my grandfather is already losing his mobility, so early detection won’t help him as it might others. But the next thing that might help him is artificial intelligence models which could progress anti-aging research. So, that’s what I want to be working on, technology at an intersection with biology,” she adds.
Delving into the question of whether a human cell be reversed into its youthful state and more, this 17-year-old B’luru student, who is one of only two Indians in the race to win a prestigious science competition, has her eyes on a D2 crore college scholarship