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Cady Pirtle '19 presents at Microsoft's DigiGirlz

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Cady Pirtle '19 was a featured speaker at Microsoft's DigiGirlz event April 26 in Edina. DigiGirlz is a Microsoft YouthSpark program that gives middle and high school girls the opportunity to explore careers in STEM and learn more about cutting-edge technology. This is the first time a high school student has been selected to present at this international event in its 10+ year history.

Cady shared her work in Breck's Advanced Science Research Program. After one of her coaches passed away from a brain tumor, Cady wanted to learn more about why chemotherapy drugs attacked healthy and cancerous cells. Last summer, she pursued this interest by researching targeted chemotherapy at the University of Minnesota Department of Pharmaceutics. Today, Cady is sharing the lessons and outcomes she learned from her research and encouraging her peers to use their passions for a purpose.

Science and STEM are usually personal. If you're passionate about a question, ask it. If you have something that's really personal for you, go out there and explore it.

"Science and STEM are usually personal," she remarks. "If you're passionate about a question, ask it. If you have something that's really personal for you, go out there and explore it."

Through hours of research, she discovered a unique way to use stem cells to carry chemo drugs through the body, directly to the cancerous cells. This reduced the number of healthy cells impacted and may decrease adverse symptoms experienced by the patient. But this conclusion didn't come easy -- a lesson she shared with the event attendees.

"STEM is also about failure. Nothing works on the first try. It takes failure to have success." She went on to share how STEM touched every part of her science research project -- from the software technology she used to create her charts and graphs, to engineering of stem cells, to the statistical analysis (math) to develop charts.

Cady hopes that by asking big questions, she can make progress toward more discoveries that may one day cure cancer. The lesson that she hoped the DigiGirlz received: Don't be afraid to take the first step. "You need to start small today," she shared. "You can do things at our age. You don't have to be a doctor or PhD. You don't have to be an adult. You can start by just asking questions along your journey. If you ask these questions and have your voice heard, people will listen."

Cady's work -- and those of her peers -- is inspiration for all students to be curious, ask questions, explore new opportunities, and don't be afraid of failure.