Heman Bekele was recently named America’s Top Young Scientist for 2023. The 14-year-old boy from Virginia has been praised for his work inventing a soap to treat skin cancer, and now has won the well-respected middle school science award from 3M and Discovery Education. A pretty big deal for a ninth grader, especially as the award comes with a $25,000 prize.
The 14-year-old budding scientist from W.T. Woodson High School in Annandale, Virginia competed against nine other students to win America’s Top Young Scientist with his innovative and inexpensive soap to help treat skin cancer. The medicinal soap was made with just three ingredients to reactivate dendritic cells to help generate an immune response to help combat skin cancer. And the soap costs just $0.50 to make, something which was very important to Heman.
“Skin cancer is mostly found in people living in developing countries,” the young scientist told Fairfax County Public Schools in his submission to 3M. “But the average price for an operation is $40,000.” He added, “I was devastated by the idea of people choosing between treatment and putting food on the table for their families. There are so many preventable deaths.”
Heman won the America’s Top Young Scientist award at a two-day event in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he beat out fellow scientists like California ninth-grader Shripriya Kalbhavi, who took second place for developing a cost-effective patch that allows for self-automated medication delivery without pills or needles. Massachussetts seventh-grader Sarah Wang took third place for developing a glove that can predict epileptic seizures through hand motions.
“I believe that young minds can make a positive impact on the world,” Heman said in his submission for the award. “I have always been interested in biology and technology, and this challenge gave me the perfect platform to showcase my ideas.”
The 3M America’s Young Scientist Award was created to foster budding scientists to “change the world for the better with a single innovative idea,” according to the website. “This premier science competition is a one-of-a-kind project-based learning opportunity designed to spark creativity, collaboration, and connection for students from every background.”
Not only has Heman Bekele won a prestigious award and $25,000, he was also able to meet other young scientists along the way.