Skip to content

You Neet to Meet: Shanzeh Haji, a Leader Passionate About Using Cutting-Edge Technology to Find Solutions for Women’s Health

Meet Shanzeh Haji, a 15-year-old Toronto-based student and innovator at The Knowledge Society (TKS), passionate about longevity and cellular health. She has written articles and worked on projects involving designing an intravenous vaccine for HIV and programming a model to predict lifespan. 

Shanzeh has explored using silver nanoparticles to extend telomeres (protein structures located at the ends of a DNA chromosomal arm) and activate telomerase (the enzyme that maintains the length of telomeres), all while being mindful of cancer risks. She also designed a vaccine to fight both disease-causing gram-negative bacteria and gram-positive bacteria. Her latest endeavour involves tweaking gene expression to improve ovarian tissue quality and fertility outcomes. 

As a young enthusiast in longevity and cellular health, what sparked your interest in this field? Can you share what motivated you to delve deep into topics like HIV vaccines and maternal mental health at such a young age? 

The drive to research issues such as HIV vaccines and maternal mental health stemmed from a desire to solve some of humanity’s most serious health concerns. The complexities of HIV as a virus, as well as the disease’s tremendous worldwide effect, piqued my interest, motivating me to learn more about the science underpinning vaccine development and how we could one day eradicate this pandemic. 

Similarly, my interest in maternal mental health arose from watching the deep yet frequently neglected issues that women confront in the postpartum period. It struck me as an area where targeted study and assistance may have a significant impact on the lives of women and, by extension, their children. 

Over the past 10 months, you’ve embarked on a journey of discovery in maternal mental health and cellular health. Could you share more about your initial steps and how you began exploring this field? 

On my thirteenth birthday, I sat at my desk with big dreams, not just about teenage life, but about tackling the world’s biggest problems; thinking about the impact I could make fueled me. I made a list of everything from curing cancer to fighting climate change. I had this unstoppable curiosity and ambition. I started asking, “What if?” and “Why not?” and got into everything I could find: research papers, YouTube tutorials, and online courses diving deep into topics like maternal mental health. It was all about taking that first step and seeing where it could lead.

Your projects, ranging from designing an intravenous vaccine for HIV to programming lifespan prediction models, are quite ambitious. What is the biggest lesson or insight you’ve gained through these experiences, and how has it shaped your approach to future projects? 

The most important lesson from my projects of designing an intravenous HIV vaccine and creating lifespan prediction models isn’t rooted in the complexity of science or code but in the art of embracing uncertainty. This journey has taught me that the path to innovation isn’t linear; it thrives on the unknown. We all start somewhere, but the factor that differentiates us is the way we handle our failures. This understanding has revolutionized my approach to problem-solving, pushing me to value the questions as much as the answers. The ambiguity of a new task started to excite me rather than scare me. This mindset helped me understand that we all start our journey somewhere and it’s about mixing curiosity with a bit of grit and a lot of openness to whatever comes next. It’s this compound of curiosity, resilience, and a willingness to explore. 

In your latest project building an app to help new moms navigate through their postpartum experience, how are you approaching the task, and what are the potential impacts of this work? 

For my latest project, I’m working on an app called BeBella. Bebella aims to improve postpartum mental health, a critical yet often ignored issue. Inspired by a visit to Sri Lanka where I met a girl who was orphaned due to her mom’s postpartum psychosis, I realized the neglect of maternal mental health, especially in underserved areas. 

Bebella is a comprehensive platform designed to support new mothers facing postpartum mental health issues. It offers health tracking, emotional support, and AI-driven personalized care, developed from real-life experiences. I’m hoping the impact will be huge; not only could Bebella help moms feel less alone and more understood during a vulnerable time, but it could also start changing how society views postpartum health. Bebella is about breaking stigmas, spreading knowledge, and, most importantly, supporting moms in a way that’s as nurturing and caring as they are. 

What kind of projects or ideas excite you the most? What would be your dream project or collaboration in the field of women’s health? 

What excites me the most are projects that combine cutting-edge technology with meaningful solutions for women’s health. I’m particularly interested in initiatives that focus on neglected regions, such as maternal mental health, reproductive health education, and access to healthcare in low-income communities. These areas have the potential for revolutionary change and provide opportunities to drastically enhance people’s lives via targeted interventions and study. 

My ideal project would be a collaboration that combines innovative biotech with community-based healthcare to develop a comprehensive platform for women’s health. This would involve developing easily available, non-invasive diagnostic techniques for the early diagnosis of illnesses like postpartum depression and cervical cancer, working with technological innovators, healthcare experts, and local communities. 

What do you love the most about what you do and why? 

I love the challenge of solving complex problems and the direct impact this work can have on improving people’s health. It’s incredibly satisfying to take theoretical knowledge and apply it in practical ways to develop solutions that could potentially save lives or improve quality of life. The constant learning, problem-solving, and seeing ideas turn into real-world applications — that’s what drives me. 

The reason why boils down to the impact. It’s about making a tangible difference, whether it’s through advancing medical research, developing new health technologies, or simply improving our understanding of a disease. The thought that my work could help someone, even in a small way, is highly motivating. 

What advice would you offer to aspiring young women? 

To aspiring young women: success is built step by step. You won’t achieve your biggest goals overnight, but starting small and being consistent can lead you to great achievements. Remember, you have access to the same resources as the world’s most successful minds. The key is to take the first step and keep moving forward. Every effort counts, and progress, no matter how gradual, is progress nonetheless. Start with what you have, and where you are, and never underestimate the power of consistent action. Your journey to success begins with the decision to begin. 

What about you surprises people? 

What often surprises people about me is my realization that age isn’t a barrier to innovation. Initially, I was under the impression that being younger might limit my ability to make significant contributions or that my passion was just a fleeting interest. However, the impact my enthusiasm has had on my choices and the paths I’ve pursued has been profound. This journey has taught me that genuine passion can defy age-related expectations and can be a powerful force in driving innovation and change. My early belief has been flipped on its head, as I’ve witnessed firsthand how a strong passion can influence decisions, open doors, and inspire action, regardless of one’s age. 

If you had an extra hour in your day, how would you spend it? 

I would spend it solving puzzles and riddles. The appeal stems from the ability to disengage from the constant presence of devices and the fast-paced rhythm of today’s culture, focusing instead on something completely different. This hour would act as a mental diversion, providing not just a break but also a new type of mental workout. Puzzles and riddles need a distinct type of thinking, one that includes logic, imagination, and occasionally thinking outside the box. It is my opportunity to relax and disconnect. 

What excites you about the future? 

I’m excited about the future because of how unpredictable and full of possibilities innovation is. We’re on the verge of discoveries that have the potential to completely alter the way we live, from innovative developments in health technology to the resolution of challenging environmental problems. The speed at which progress is accelerating means that we are actively influencing what comes next rather than only being observers. It excites me to think that I could contribute to solutions that were previously unthinkable and help bring about enormous changes. Beyond traditional bounds, the future promises transformation, calling us to dream and create without constraints and with confidence. This is the place where bold concepts come to life, and I get really excited about the limitless potential here.




To keep up with Shanzeh, connect with her on LinkedIn and Medium.