17-year-old Matthew O’Connell was named a Google Science Fair regional finalist for his software program, which seeks to make communication easier between medical professionals and disadvantaged patients.

(Originally published on Patch.com, 7/25/2014)

There’s a chance that Matthew O’Connell, a rising senior at Commack High School, is having a more productive summer than you.

Not only is the 17-year-old software engineer working as a data analyst for NASA, but he has also recently been named a regional finalist for the 2014 Google Science Fair, the world’s largest online science and technology competition open to teens between the ages of 13 and 18. And not to mention he’s a dedicated Boy Scout working towards his Eagle Scout rank.

“I was at work at NASA and we have a very quiet office because everyone is always quietly doing calculations, and I was screaming,” said Matthew of receiving the news. “I called my mom and she was really happy for me. It’s validation, it shows that yes, my research is credible and it gives me purpose and it’s awesome.”

Matthew’s project is a computer-based multi-sensory system that helps to better relay pharmacotherapy information to patients in disadvantaged nations. Called the Prescription Architect, the software allows medical professionals to prescribe medication to a populace that may not necessarily speak their same language.

Through the use of pictograms and spoken instruction, the software relays medical instruction by using a translation engine that allows patients to hear instructions in their native language while simultaneously providing a visual representation. The software also allows prescribers to create patient accounts, print, email and save data.

“My project is unique in that it’s alive in a sense,” said Matthew. “A lot of people have a project where they’ve studied maybe an enzyme and then came up with a correlation, figured something out, or acquired facts. But my project is ongoing. I’m still working on it and it’s available online and has been downloaded in over 900 locations around the world. And I’m currently working on a new version that will take everything a step further.”

Intended for use by medical professional in organizations likeDoctors Without Borders and the International Pharmaceutical Federation, the software is meant to bridge the gap between patients grappling with poor health literacy and medical providers facing language barriers.

In August, Google will release the international results and name a world finalist as well as open the voting for the people’s choice finalist. In the meantime, Matthew is focused on applying to college and on a new research project in conjunction with the U.S. and Australian governments called All Children Reading. But that’s another story.

“I’m very appreciative of all the help Commack faculty have given me in the science department and I’m appreciative of my community’s continued support of science research and my endeavors in that field,” Matthew said.

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