Kaien Yang: The 14-Year-Old Genius

An image of a human head with a light bulb in it.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Kaien Yang is 14 years old, an eighth grade student at the Nysmith School for the Gifted in Herndon, Virginia and he may have just invented a new way to save lives.

Done as a science fair project last year, Yang developed the medical app iDiagnostic. It’s an app for doctors, designed to combine MRI results with a psychometric evaluation to, hopefully, diagnose early and accurately for depression. An estimated 15 million Americans suffer from persistent depressive disorder, and it is the leading cause of suicide, as well as correlated with many other health issues.

His app won his school science fair, and went on to beat 29 other top finalists at the Marconi/Samueli Award for Innovation, an award given (along with a $10,000 grant) at the Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Tech, and Engineering for Rising Stars) competition in Washington D.C.

Yang’s interest in neuroscience set in early. When he was nine years old, he met the surgeons at John Hopkins Hospital when his mother had brain surgery, and got to pepper them with questions. When his mother recovered entirely, young Yang knew how much work and skill had gone into that, and it amazed him.

Maria-Theresa Dragg, a science teacher in Nysmith School, says that Yang often made her feel like the student in the relationship, even when he was only in sixth grade.

“I learn more from him than I feel I can offer him,” she told local news. “He is very self-motivated and wants to learn more. He won’t break from a project until he has solved the problem.” She also describes him as mature and compassionate beyond his years, going to great lengths to make sure his classmates all understand the material.

“He will go far,” she said, “and not by stepping on people to get there.”

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