Wilson To, a recent Global Imagine Cup grant winner with the LifeLens team (and a 2010 Imagine Cup US winner), is the rare scientist who can talk about his work – developing mobile applications for diagnosing vascular disease in developing countries — in terms anyone can understand. He relates science to human outcomes, not statistics. But it’s in his role as teacher that To really shines.
To credits his impressive early success entirely to his education. As the recipient of a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Millennium Fellowship prior to high school graduation, To certainly had financial support for his academic endeavors. But he’s also part of the first generation of his family to attend college, and he takes nothing for granted, especially his mentors.
“Whether a teacher or not, one of the greatest things someone can do is provide mentorship,” To says. “I’ve sought out mentors at every stage of my academic career, and I’m still doing that today — as both a student and a teacher.”
Once he completes his Ph.D. work at UC-Davis, To plans to teach at the college level, with a focus on ocular diseases. Longer term? To wants to teach high school.
“High school students are open to possibilities,” To says. “They’re at an age where they’re not only open to learning, but open to new ways to learn.”
As both a student and a teacher, Wilson To is cautiously optimistic about the future of education. While he’s troubled by the policy and funding issues hindering education today, he sees hope in emerging technology.
“Technology can not only make teachers more effective and efficient (To, via his Kinect Avatar, often meets with students using XBox Live), but it also bridges a critical gap. Users no longer need to understand technology to use it. Devices and apps are evolving to be much more natural and accessible.”
As a scientist, Wilson To is making important contributions to society. But as a teacher, he believes he can change the world. And I agree.
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Team LifeLens from the United States
Tristan Gibeau, Cy Khormaee, Wilson To, Jason Wakizaka, Helena Xu
Lifelens is an innovative point-of-care tool to diagnose malaria using an augmented Windows Phone application. The project addresses the unacceptably high child mortality rates caused by the lack of detection and availability of treatment of malarial diseases.
Team Lifelens is ready to develop their project for launch. They will use the investment for distribution of their devices, subsidizing the phones and field testing. Lifelens also plans to evolve their project by integrating Windows Azure.