John Karis had “little ambition” at his Durham, N.C. high school, and as a junior majoring in electrical engineering and computer science at Princeton he’s just a B student. But while working summers as a technician at Duke University Medical Center, where his father teaches anesthesiology, he has made a name for himself as an inventor of sophisticated medical equipment. In 1977 he devised a $30 gizmo that detects any malfunction in the electrodes that link patients to electrocardiograph machines during heart surgery. More recently, to help anesthesiologists judge just how much muscle relaxant to administer, he designed and built an inexpensive (about $500) instrument that measures muscular response in a patient’s palm. At left, Karis, 21, demonstrates his latest: a microprocessor-based device that converts electroencephalograph readings into topographical displays. These indicate, among other things, the sleep level of an anesthetized surgical patient. Karis, who aims to go into medical electronics, shows up on the display as very laid-back. Patents? Not worth the cost, he says. “With the little money I have, I’d rather go skiing.”
Cheryl Miller, 18, a senior at Riverside (Calif.) Polytechnic High, may be the best schoolgirl basketball player in the U.S. A 6’2″ center, she has a four-year average of 36.7 points per game. In January she scored 105 points, a California record, against one opponent. In leading her undefeated team to a fourth straight state championship last month with a 77-44 win over Los Gatos, she got 41 points. Though she feels “defense is my strength,” her stats at Riverside include completion of 1,105 of 1,621 field goal attempts.
In their early teens Cheryl and her younger brother, Reggie, also a Riverside basketball star, worked the neighborhood courts. “I used to hide while he challenged guys to a game with him and his sister,” Cheryl says. “The guys always used to think, ‘Boy, we’ve made a quick $5.’ Then I’d step out from where I was hiding and they’d see how tall I was.” Her dad, Saul, the data processing manager at a hospital, built a half-court in his yard and bought video equipment to help his kids refine their game. Cheryl often practices with boys. “It helps,” she says. “Guys are more physical than girls.” The still-growing star (she thinks she’ll reach 6’3″) plays in AAU competitions in the off-season. Her devotion to her sport, she says, has led her “to give up a social life.” But there have been compensations, such as the 200 or so college scholarship offers she’s received. Says Miller: “I never thought being a tomboy would come to all this.”