In this episode of Five Minutes, we speak with Nikhil Gopal, Student at Lawrenceville School. Nikhil tells us about his research and goals for the future.

This is Five Minutes with Nikhil Gopal, on the Fight Malaria Blog.

What is your biggest life lesson or key takeaway from this interview that you would like to stick with readers?

Malaria is a disease that can be eliminated. All of the necessary tools already exist. We just need a better mechanism to identify those at risk (poor, infants, elderly, rural area).

Briefly tell us what your project is about.

I created a microfluidic device that takes a sample of blood from a patient and will detect the presence of Plasmodium DNA. The device is portable, easy to use, and inexpensive. Also, amplifying DNA is much more accurate than the antibody-based rapid diagnostic tests available currently. Current rapid diagnostic tests suffer from having high false negative and false positive rates.

Can you tell us more about yourself? What is your passion?

I’m currently a student in the final year of high school in the US. My interests lie in the area of science, technology and policy. I hope one day to find a career that combines all 3 of these together.

What advice would you give to others wanting to begin researching and developing a scientific device?

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Never give up. It took me nearly 2 years to fine tune my device. I’m always looking to improve things. In many ways, failure is almost expected as a scientist. This is the only way to learn from mistakes and improve.

What were your biggest challenges up until now?

Designing oligonucleotide primers which would properly amplify the sections of DNA that I was interested in (aldolase gene). It turns out that this was far more difficult than I imagined.

What are your happiest moments you’ve had whilst developing your DNA amplifying device?

Watching the colours change from clear to an intense blue. This indicated that the DNA was successfully propagating itself.

What future do you hope to create through your work developing your DNA amplifying device?

My long-term goal is to find NGO funding to take this device to the market. It will take a lot more work and clinical trials. But I think developing solutions that are scalable for the developing world is quite important. Finding something that will work without electricity, for example, is key to success.

How can readers participate in helping you achieve this future?

Please follow me on twitter @nikhilgopal2 where I will post updates.

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