By Greg Lee
Like most 17-year-olds, Aileen Wang stays pretty busy - hanging with her friends, applying to colleges and playing on the varsity tennis team.
But the senior at Aliso Niguel High School also spends lots of her time showing doctors her research on how to detect breast and skin cancer sooner.
"It's definitely really surreal, because I never thought I would make it all the way to this stage," Wang said.
Wang began the research project her freshman year after her aunt was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer.
"She took yearly mammograms but they only discovered it in stage three and it was already pretty well developed," she explained.
Driven by her aunt's pain and stress, she created a mathematical algorithm to find abnormalities in breast and skin tissue.
Wang says the math is complicated, and so is the title of her project, which is called, "A Novel Framework for Diagnosing Breast Cancer and Melanoma Using Optimal Point Region Growing Segmentation and Pseudo-Zernike Moments."
Wang got some help at the Avid Academy for Gifted Youth in Irvine. Founder Dr. James Li said he only helped her problem-solve. He said she did all the hard work.
"Always persistent, we had weekly meetings and she never missed it once," Li said.
That persistence has been recognized at competitions around the country. Now, she's earned an invitation to the International Conference on Breast Cancer in Italy this week.
"It's definitely really exciting. It's going to be my first time in Europe, so it'll be great to present," Wang said.
Wang said she's not sure where she wants to go to college, but she definitely wants it to be a place where she can continue her research.