Photo by Danielle Levitt
When we met Jack Andraka, the gay 16-year-old science prodigy who developed an early-detection test for pancreatic and ovarian cancers, we knew he was something special. He had traveled from his home in Baltimore, Md., by train to be photographed for the Out100 and was humble when praised for his astounding accomplishments at such a young age. “I really have no clue where I want to go or what I want to be when I grow up,” Andraka told us. “I still have a lot of decisions to make. I still have to take my SAT first.”
Andraka, who many may recognize after he was featured on The Colbert Report and 60 Minutes, has now traveled to Italy to be honored by the Vatican and accept the International Giuseppe Sciacca Award, which honors young people for outstanding accomplishments.
In a Saturday interview with WBAL, Andraka spoke candidly about being a young gay scientist. “It’s really amazing to be recognized by the Vatican, especially as a gay scientist,” he said. “I mean this would be unheard of just a few years ago. To be part of this bridge of progress is really amazing. It just shows how much the world has grown to accept people that are gay and are LGBT. It’s really amazing.”
Andraka said he hoped to receive an audience with Pope Francis before leaving Rome Sunday; there’s no word so far on whether it took place. After his visit to the Vatican, Andraka was scheduled to go to Berlin to spend a week at the Max Planck Society, a scientific group, promoting open access to research, WBAL reports.
When we asked him why he was so open about being gay, when he could easily keep that detail private, he was blunt:
"Well, being a young gay kid, I thought was going to be horrible," he explained. "It's just, no one at these science fairs is gay, I'm just that 'weird kid.' What actually turned out was that no one really cared—that was a big eye-opener. But at the end I was very happy about it."
Here's a little of the excitement young Andraka expressed when he won first prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair: