Los Altos teen earns $25,000 scholarship

Courtesy of Manan Shah
Manan Shah of Los Altos enters Stanford University this month, with plans to study computer science and mathematics.

Los Altos resident Manan Shah had to read the email twice before he believed that it was true: His research project on breast cancer earned him a $25,000 Davidson Fellows Scholarship.

The scholarship is sponsored by the nonprofit Davidson Institute, whose mission is “to recognize, nurture and support profoundly intelligent young people and to provide opportunities for them to develop their talents to make a positive difference,” according to the organization’s website.

Shah, who graduated from The Harker School last spring, broke down his project – Deep Learning Assessment of Tumor Proliferation in Histopathological Images for Categorical and Molecular Breast Cancer Severity Diagnosis – in layman’s terms.

“Breast cancer is the most common cancer worldwide, and tumor proliferation speed is an important biomarker of breast cancer patients’ prognosis,” he said.

However, current methods are fairly limited and can produce inaccurate results. Shah’s project aimed to develop a better way.

“I created a comprehensive tumor proliferation assessment system using novel, highly specialized, deep-learning frameworks to assess the severity of tumor growth and spread from a digitized tissue slide,” he said.

Shah drew on personal experience as a motivator.

“After my grandfather was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I gained a firsthand understanding of the travails that accompanied the diagnosis. I envisioned my computational system as a way to alleviate the extended wait times and decrease the chance of pathologist misdiagnosis,” said Shah, who hopes his work will pave the way for assessment on an automated, larger scale.

It’s not the first time he has been honored for his work on the project. He earned a $3,000 scholarship from the Siemens Foundation last November, qualifying him for the $50,000 scholarship he won the following month for placing second at the 17th annual Siemens Competition national finals, a first for a Harker student.

The scholarships should help fund Shah’s future academic endeavors. He is set to start his freshman year at Stanford University this month, studying computer science and mathematics. The combination is just another part of continuing his work.

“I’m certainly planning on continuing my research, and I’m also excited to create innovative solutions to pressing medical problems using the techniques and tools of machine learning,” he said.

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