Pogharian’s High School Science Fair Project Leads to Medical Possibilities

Special for the Armenian Weekly

While volunteering at the Montreal General Hospital, 17-year-old Anya Pogharian was fascinated by the dialysis machines. With her high school science fair around the corner, she found herself working on a new prototype that she hoped would revolutionize the dialysis process—in terms of cost and efficiency.

With her high school science fair around the corner, Pogharian found herself working on a new prototype that she hoped would revolutionize the dialysis process—in terms of cost and efficiency.
With her high school science fair around the corner, Pogharian found herself working on a new prototype that she hoped would revolutionize the dialysis process—in terms of cost and efficiency. (Photo: Anya Pogharian)

At the hospital, Pogharian volunteered in different units, but spent much of her time at the hemodialysis unit. “This gave me the chance to spend a lot of time with dialysis patients and to get to really know them,” said Pogharian, who took a break from studying for her upcoming midterms to speak to the Armenian Weekly. “There, I learned a lot about dialysis—the process, and how everything works. I found it interesting how this machine can purify one’s blood in such a simple process.”

Dialysis is the process of removing waste from the blood, and is usually used for people who have kidney disease. The treatment typically takes place at hospitals, and lasts around four hours. Patients often have to receive this treatment two to four times a week.

Anya Pogharian and her dialysis machine (Photo: Emily Brass/ CBC)
Anya Pogharian and her dialysis machine (Photo: Emily Brass/ CBC)

Pogharian’s interest soon turned into an idea. When assigned a high school science project, she decided to work on developing a new dialysis machine—one that would be simple and highly affordable, especially for the developing world.

“Dialysis machines that you would find in a hospital or at home cost around $30,000 (CAD) [just over $24,000 USD]. Mine ended up costing about $500 [about $400 USD],” explained Pogharian, who consulted with many nephrologists and dialysis experts while working on her project.

She spent around 300 hours on her invention—far longer than the mandatory 10 hours her teacher required. “I had to log and record how many hours I spent working on each step for the project. I logged around 300 hours. To date, I’ve probably spent closer to double that.”

One of the major challenges for Pogharian was learning how to program; she had no exposure to coding before the project. “It’s basically like learning a completely new language—so that was difficult. But it was necessary for the project, and I was determined to make it work,” she explained.

Pogharian was born and raised in Montreal. After receiving her elementary and secondary education in French, she decided to switch to an English-language program for college. “My father’s side is Armenian and my mother’s side is American, so we speak Armenian and English at home,” she added.

Her ambitious science fair project has since earned her several scholarships, awards, and even a summer internship with Héma-Québec, a non-profit organization that manages the blood supply for the Canadian province of Quebec, to try out her inventions at their labs with human blood.

When asked about her future plans, Pogharian says she’s already back to the drawing board. She is currently working on a second prototype, looking at ways to improve the efficiency and functionality of her machine.

Although Pogharian hasn’t yet had the opportunity to visit Armenia, she hopes that one day her work will help its citizens. “I haven’t really looked into how dialysis is performed there, but I hope that they can benefit from my prototype one day,” she said.

In the meantime, Pogharian will be busy studying for her midterms.

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Rupen Janbazian

Rupen Janbazian is the former editor of The Armenian Weekly. He is currently based in Yerevan, where he serves as the director of public relations of the Tufenkian Foundation.
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4 Comments

  1. Կեցցես բալես, մենք միշտ կարիքը ունենք քո նման խելոքների……

  2. This is amazing.Cost of surgery is very high because of the blood collection and salvaging process. Your invention is simple and is affordable. Go for it.I have another invention which is an extension of what you have.

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