A published Oceanside teen scientist was named 2020 Military Child of the Year for Innovation for her intensive biomedical research, recently focusing on the mechanisms of addiction.
Kainath Kamil, 16, is a junior at Mission Vista High School in Oceanside who just received one of Operation Homefront's seven Military Child of the Year awards.
Recently she's been working on an addiction research project with the San Diego Biomedical Research Institute. She first became interested in the process of addiction while volunteering at a soup kitchen and its rehabilitation program.
"I listened to many stories which taught me that addiction impacts people differently. Some people get hooked very easily, and some people recover very quickly. I wanted to find out what genetic factors were responsible for these differences," Kamil told NBC 7.
Kamil, through her intensive research on gene sequences of fruit flies, wants to find the genes responsible for synaptic regeneration so that a person’s brain will not develop a dependency on addictive substances.
Not to mention, she already has papers on cancer research and genetics published in multiple academic publications.
Kamil said she draws inspiration from her father, Navy Cmdr. Mohammad Kamil, who came from India without knowing English and put himself through school while learning the language, she told NBC 7.
Her father got into UCLA, then dental school, and then a Navy recruiter approached him. You could say the rest is history -- he served 20 years in the Navy as a dentist and is now a commander at Camp Pendleton.
“As a thank you for my dad’s sacrifice, and as a way to harness my scientific abilities for the greater good, I conduct scientific research in hopes of discovering a breakthrough,” Kamil said.
As for the coronavirus pandemic, she said she wants her next project to focus on virology or the mutation of infectious microbes.
"I would also try to come up with a plan to be better prepared for highly contagious diseases or diseases that are unfamiliar genetically to us."
And to other military kids, she would tell those who love science to take advantage of every obstacle they face.
"If you have to see a loved one go away, then take it as an opportunity to make them proud. If you are moving, take advantage of any internships in the area," she said. "Don't be afraid of failure or rejection, I had to contact 30 professors before my first mentor came up."
The annual awards recognize seven outstanding young people age 13 to 18. Six for each branch of the armed forces; the seventh award is the Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation.
In her free time, she likes to cook food from different cultures. In fact she did a TEDxYouth talk about it!