Erin Smith USA, 18
Basic Human Needs: Health
While watching a video created by the Michael J. Fox Foundation, Erin observed that Parkinson’s patients’ facial expressions frequently appeared distant. She wondered if those shared facial expressions could have medical significance. After a great deal of research, Erin developed FacePrint, a tool to diagnose and monitor Parkinson’s disease using early stage facial muscle indicators. Requiring only a computer and webcam, FacePrint offers an inexpensive, remote tool to detect early stage Parkinson’s disease within milliseconds. Compatible with facial recognition used by Snapchat and Facebook, Erin calls FacePrint “the selfie that could save your life.” FacePrint currently has an 88% accuracy rate, which Erin is continuously working to improve. FacePrint has been featured on NPR’s “Up to Date”, Fortune, Forbes and Seventeen Magazine. Her research has also been presented and awarded at several competitions, including Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, and the International BioGENEius Challenge. Last summer, Erin launched a study in partnership with the Michael J. Fox Foundation to continue her research. She also works with pharmaceutical companies, clinicians, Parkinson’s patients and researchers to improve the technology, but her existing discoveries have the potential to develop better-targeted and more effective treatment. Erin plans to expand FacePrint to diagnose and monitor other neurological diseases such as postpartum depression and PTSD, and hopes FacePrint turns social media platforms such as Snapchat and Facebook into powerful healthcare tools.