Our Grade 11 student Midori coauthored a research paper that won this year’s National Society Young Scientist Support Programme Award from the Japanese Society for Strabismus and Amblyopia. She is the second author of this paper called ‘Investigation of a new strabismus detection method using deep learning gaze estimation technology,’ written in collaboration with doctors from the Japanese medical start-up OUI Inc.
Scientific solutions to debilitating conditions
Midori herself is suffering from dire myopia and astigmatism, which increases the probability of developing severe eye conditions in the future, such as glaucoma. From a young age, she thought: What if I could stop that? She had many ideas to prevent eye conditions from developing and wanted to test whether her predictions could help people. From there, Midori embarked on a long journey to focus her ideas and create a practical solution.
While in UWC ISAK Japan’s Grade 10 Leadership Program, she spent four months researching how to prevent severe eye conditions from developing until she honed her solution to strabism detection and deep learning. She found a piece of code on GitHub proving that deep learning models trained with computer-generated images could predict the gaze direction well enough to detect strabismus. This was a considerable finding since it meant that real images weren’t necessary. Deep learning is a method in Artificial Intelligence (AI) to process data similarly to the human brain, recognizing complex patterns in images and such to make predictions.
Change-making in practice
The original code owner permitted Midori to use it for her research. She worked with OUI Inc – whose mission is to “overcome 50% of world blindness” – on developing a product to identify strabismus using gaze estimation. She presented her product to the OUI Inc team during her Grade 10 Spring Project Week, and they then helped her improve the code and program her product. She asked her friends at UWC ISAK to participate in data collection. This collaboration with OUI Inc doctors culminated in the completion of the above research paper.
But that is only a first step. “Now we need to gather a bigger data set and make the product more accessible to people with no programming skills,” explains Midori.
Striving for change
This eye health project is only one of the many projects that Midori is involved with at UWC ISAK Japan. She also co-founded Project TOMO with her peer Sayaka to support education for foreign children at Japanese schools. Interested in solving environmental issues, Midori has served as Euglena’s Chief Future Officer since August 2022, a role in which she advises the company on how to be more sustainable by teaming up with the company’s Future Summit Members. In particular, as the Chair of the company’s Sustainability Committee, she has actively made inputs at the management level discussions in a constructive manner. She hopes to join the Sustainable School Initiative (SSI) Club at UWC ISAK next semester.
Midori summarized her approach to problem-solving in a few short words: “I like looking at systems and making change happen.” Given her skills and passion, we are sure she will play a crucial role in addressing the challenges our world faces today and into the future.