A local George Mason University scientist was just named one of the brightest young minds in the country by Popular Science magazine.
DR. Alessandra Luchini's field is nanoscience, the highly complex study of nanoparticles.
The 34-year-old researcher says growing up in Italy, she never dreamed of being a scientist, though she admits she was an atypical child.
"I never liked playing with dolls," she says. "I would rather dissect insects or play with stones and leaves."
In fact, she was studying literature in high school until she heard a scientist speak about nanoscience.
"I saw this futuristic approach of the material, the nanoscale and I thought, huh, maybe it's something going into it!" she says.
Luchini's ground breaking technology relates to early detection of diseases like Lyme disease, tuberculosis, even cancer. Molecular signs of disease exist in the body but are too small to detect, but Luchini's research is changing that. Her hope is to detect these faint hints of disease early enough to treat patients as quickly as possible.
"We really got to work with the patient and that's definitely the thing that makes me the most proud," she says.
Luchini splits her time teaching at Mason, and doing her research. She came to the U.S. for a one year fellowship, she met her husband here and now they have a baby named Sophia.
So six years later, and that acknowledgment in popular science.
"It was definitely a big surprise and big joy, of course," she says.