Alessandra Luchini working in the lab at the Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine at George Mason University. (GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY CREATIVE SERVICES)

Luchini, 34, is a native of Italy who came to Mason on a fellowship from Italy’s equivalent of the National Institutes of Health. In 2008, while working at Mason’s Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine, she and a team of researchers devised a new technology to find biomarkers in blood and urine that can catch cancer, lyme disease and other illnesses sooner than previously thought.

“Dr. Luchini’s nanoparticles have revolutionary potential,” Lance Liotta, co-director of the Mason proteomics center, told Mason writer Leah Kerkman Fogarty, “to improve the diagnoses of early-stage cancer and infectious disease. This could reduce suffering and death for millions,” said Liotta, who nominated Luchini for the award.

Luchini told Fox 5’s nearly-as-brilliant Beth Parker that she’s been getting a lot of teasing about the “brilliant” tag from her family, but that it has not impressed her 18-month-old baby, who keeps crying. She also told Parker that she was really touched by an e-mail from a Popular Science reader. “She said, ‘Thank you very much for being brilliant. I lost so many family members to cancer that I really thank you for working in this field,’ ” Luchini said.

Here is Parker’s report for Fox 5: