As our 2020 Military Child of the Year for Innovation, Kainath Kamil, 16, wants to continue studying the genetic mechanisms of addiction—which means even more weekends with her fruit flies.
A student at Mission Vista High School in Oceanside, California, Kainath believes in the transformative power of innovation. She has already been published in three research journals regarding brain cancer, genetic engineering, and stem cells. Kainath plans to dedicate her life to helping people through research.
“I plan to have a profession in medicine so I may make a difference in health care,” Kainath said. “This could mean becoming a surgeon and quite possibly the United States Surgeon General. This could also involve creating a biotech company specializing in nanotechnology. Whatever I do I hope to make a substantial impact on society.”
She is currently 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 taking part in their rehabilitation program.
Scientists are aware that certain genes can increase the likelihood of addiction. Kainath, through her intensive research on the RNA and DNA gene sequences of fruit flies, wants to find the genes that are responsible for synaptic regeneration so that a person’s brain will not develop an dependency on addictive substances.
Kainath is the daughter of Navy Cmdr. Mohammad Kamil and Ayesha. She has a brother, Khalif, 15. Kainath said her father is her inspiration. Last year, the family was supposed to move, which would have been the family’s fourth, but he took a hardship assignment in Bahrain for a year to make it easier for the children’s education. While he was gone, Kainath read a climate report about the Amazon burning and how greenhouse gases will damage the planet. She wanted to make her dad proud and used her passion for science to genetically modify the bacteria Micrococcus luteus to absorb carbon dioxide and methane.
“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,” Kainath said.
In addition to her academic research, Kainath is a leader in many organizations in her community. She is the founder and president of the San Diego Youth Environmental Association. She raised $3,000 for the restoration of rainforests across the world. Her nonprofit organizes cleanups and builds greenhouses from plastic bottles. Recently, they made pouches for kangaroos orphaned by Australian fires.
Over the past three years, Kainath has partnered with the San Diego Blood Bank and organized three blood drives at her high school which in total has received 150 donors.
Kainath also founded SoCal’s chapter of Students Together Assisting Refugees. She personally received a letter of commendation from CARE for clothing donations and Letters of Hope.
Favorite Quote: “Hands filled with stones cannot carry gold.” – Oprah Winfrey
- Founder/President San Diego Youth Environmental Association
- Emperor Science Award (Cancer Research)
- TEDx Speaker: February 2020
- Battered Women’s Shelter Volunteer (SEED India)
- Genius Olympiad (2019): Gold Medal in Science
- Naval Medical Center: Camp Pendleton S2M2 Intern
- Prudential Service Award/ President’s Service Award
- UCSD Mentorship Assistance Program
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Thank you to our gala sponsors, who cannot be with us in person, but whose support has been invaluable: United Technologies Corporation, Booz Allen Hamilton, Carnival Cruise Line, LaQuinta by Wyndham, PNC Bank, Procter and Gamble, and Veterans United Home Loans.
Read previous 2020 recipient profiles: