When you’ve been a prodigy—as Eva Vertes has—age matters a little more than it does to us non-prodigy types. And one of the great things about being part of the SLoS team is that, even though Eva’s videos only run a total of about eight minutes, we actually got to interview her for more than two hours. Eva’s grandmother in the lab (Courtesy Eva Vertes) And while we were interviewing her, Eva told us stories relating to two specific ages—44 and 2.
Story #1: Eva is named after her grandmother, also Eva Vertes, a chemist who worked in a diabetes research laboratory. Eva told us that her grandmother “was very passionate about her research…and my grandfather says that there are lots of similarities between her and me. But at 44, she died of cancer of the stomach, so I never got to meet her.” Eva didn’t originally think that she’d switched from Alzheimer’s to cancer research because of her feelings for her grandmother. But she now believes “there is a connection there—in a way, maybe I am doing this partly for her.”
Story #2: While living in New York (before moving to Florida for medical school), Eva would visit and play with sick children at the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center one night a week as a volunteer. One child, in particular, made a huge impression on her. “She’s probably around 2 years old,” Eva explained, “but she has this sort of wisdom that’s a bit older than a 2-year-old would ever have because she’s been through so much—she was diagnosed when she was an infant.” When Eva talked with the girl’s mother, she got a surprise that really hit home: “I found out that this little girl I was playing with actually had the type of leukemia—the exact type of leukemia—that I had back in the lab, in my petri dish. And I thought ‘what this girl is suffering from, what she might die from….’ Those are the moments when you get all the motivation that you need.”
Watch all four of Eva’s videos here at our site. Ask her your questions in the post below. And then be sure to check out her TED talk on her ideas about the future of medicine.