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William Gao

Centennial High School
Ellicott City, MD

Designing a Federated Learning-Driven Collaborative Diagnostic System for Metastatic Breast Cancer: Reducing Long Diagnosis Delays and Improving Patient Survival Outcomes in Developing Countries 

William Gao developed an AI-driven diagnostic support and image analysis tool that quickly incorporates pathology data from many medical centers to speed up the identification of metastatic breast cancer. He believes his tool could ease the transfer of data and help address the lack of skilled pathologists in some regions of the world.

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William Gao, 18, of Ellicott City, created a diagnostic image analysis tool that reduces delays in the diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer caused by the lack of highly skilled pathologists in underserved regions for his Regeneron Science Talent Search bioengineering project. His research, part of which he published as first author in Cancer Informatics, uses federated learning, a kind of machine learning, to detect breast cancer from patient images without threatening patient privacy since it does not require the transfer of patient data between institutions.

His system includes safeguards for patient privacy and can even be deployed using a smartphone to facilitate its use in regions where medical centers are geographically far apart. Initial tests showed his tool outperformed traditionally trained models when identifying areas of metastatic breast cancer.

2024 Science Talent Search finalist William Gao
Society for Science/Chris Ayers Photography

William founded the science research club at Centennial High School where he is also editor-in-chief of the science journal. He is also a nationally ranked fencer and volunteers as an assistant youth coach. The son of Zhong Gao and Weiping Shi, William wants to pursue an academic career to bring scientific advancements in A.I. and medical tech to communities in need.

2024 Science Talent Search finalist William Gao
Society for Science/Chris Ayers Photography

Beyond the Project

Passionate about educational equity, William joined the local board of education’s policy advisory committees, pushing for policies that remove institutional barriers to achievement for underserved students.

FUN FACTS: William loves playing video games by “theorycrafting,” that is, optimizing gameplay by analyzing the games’ mathematical mechanics.

Illustration of 2024 STS finalist William Gao by Amy Wike
Illustration by Amy Wike, 2024