14-year-old girl named America’s top young scientist for creating soap that cures skin cancer

FAIRFAX COUNTY, VA. (Gray News) – A 14-year-old from Virginia has been named America’s Top Young Scientist for inventing a soap that cures skin cancer.

Heman Bekele, a ninth-grader at W.T. Woodson Middle School in Annandale, won the 2023 3M Young Scientist Challenge last week, according to a press release.

Heman developed Melanoma Soap, a compound-based bar of soap designed to treat skin cancer. Over the next five years, he hopes to refine his innovation and create a non-profit organization that will distribute this low-cost solution to communities in need.

The final product was shockingly cheap at $0.50 per bar of soap, a much more affordable and accessible treatment than traditional skin cancer treatments.

You can watch a short excerpt from Heman’s presentation here.

Finalists are paired with a 3M scientist who trains them over the summer to bring their idea to life...
Finalists are paired with a 3M scientist who trains them over the summer, helping them take their idea from concept to prototype. Heman can be seen here with his mentor, Deborah Isabelle, working on new product development in 3M’s Automotive Aftermarket Division.(ACK | 3M/PR Newswire)

Heman said that in 15 years, he hopes to be a successful electrical engineer who has made a significant contribution to the industry, with a fulfilling personal life, a loving family and a strong network of friends.

Heman spent the last four months competing against nine other finalists, winning the competition at 3M’s global headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota, on October 9 and 10.

As the grand prize winner, he will receive a cash prize of $25,000 and the title of America’s Top Young Scientist.

This year’s runner-up was Sripriya Kalbhavi, a ninth-grader at Lynbrook High School in San Jose, California, who developed EasyBZ, a cost-effective microneedle patch that allows self-delivery of medications without pills or needles.

Third place this year went to Sarah Wang, a seventh-grader at Pike School in Andover, Massachusetts. She developed the Spring Epilepsy Detection Glove, a glove that can detect tonic-clonic and myoclonic epileptic seizures using normal hand movements and track seizure statistics. via a smartphone application.

Second and third place winners will each receive $2,000.

The top ten finalists in this year's America's Best Young Scientist competition spent their last...
The top ten finalists in this year’s America’s Best Young Scientist competition have spent the last four months competing against each other.(ACK | 3M/PR Newswire)

Finalists are paired with a 3M scientist who trains them over the summer, helping them take their idea from concept to prototype. The competition evaluates students on creativity and innovative thinking, application of STEM principles, demonstration of passion and exploration, presentation skills and ability to inspire others.

This was the 16th year of the competition. 3M said previous winners have given TED talks, filed patents, founded nonprofit organizations, been named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list and exhibited at the White House science fair.

Winners have also been featured in The New York Times, Forbes and Business Insider, and have appeared on TV shows such as “Good Morning America” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

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