MIT Lincoln Laboratory honors student humanitarians

MIT Lincoln Laboratory's Ceres Connection program, in conjunction with the International Astronomical Union (IAU), honored two Stanford University graduate students who were awarded the IEEE Student Humanitarians Supreme Prize in the IEEE Presidents' Change the World Competition. Drew Hall and Richard Gaster's invention, the Nanolab, best answered the competition's challenge to students: apply technological and leadership skills to develop unique solutions that address real-world problems and that benefit their communities or humanity. For their efforts, Hall and Gaster each have had a minor planet discovered by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) program named in his honor.

Photo of winners of Change the IEEE World CompetitionDrew Hall (left) and Richard Gaster (right) display the certificates describing the asteroids named in their honor. The two Stanford graduate students received their IEEE Student Humanitarians Supreme award and Ceres Connection honor from IEEE President John Vig (center) at the 2009 IEEE Honors Ceremony on June 25 in Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy of IEEE)

The Nanolab is a miniature, portable bioassay that can be used to identify several disease proteins "in the field," thus enabling the diagnosis of a number of diseases without the presence of doctors, technicians, or special lab equipment. Hall and Gaster designed the Nanolab for use in places where access to medical diagnostic laboratories and skilled lab technicians is limited, for example, third-world countries or remote regions. In addition, the Nanolab can detect the presence of several different diseases in one run and at lower concentrations, all within ten to fifteen minutes. These capabilities speed up not only the diagnostic process but ultimately treatment.

Past, current, and future presidents of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) who judged the more than 200 entries in the 2009 competition chose the Nanolab as the winning technology because of its wide usefulness. Nanolab could provide diagnostics to any region of the world in which medical laboratory facilities are scarce. The potential also exists for Nanolab to be adapted for over-the-counter sale for home diagnostics.

The minor planets named for Hall and Gaster are two of more than 200,000 space objects that have been discovered by the LINEAR program. LINEAR, which uses two ground-based electro-optical deep-space surveillance telescopes located on the White Sands Missile Range near Socorro, New Mexico, has discovered more than 50% of all known minor planets (often referred to as asteroids). To the discoverer of asteroids go the rights to recommend names for them; the IAU officially grants the names. In 2001, Lincoln Laboratory decided the best use of the naming rights was to reward exceptional middle- and high-school science students and their teachers with asteroids named in their honor. The young scientists and their teachers were identified through science competitions offered by the Society for Science and the Public. The Ceres Connection this year extended its scope to honor the winners of the IEEE Presidents' Change the World Competition.

Posted October 2009

top of page