A 14-year-old student has been named America’s Top Young Scientist after inventing a bar of soap that treats skin cancer. Heman Bekele, a 9th grader at W.T. Woodson High School in Annandale, Virginia, won the 2023 3M Young Scientist Challenge and was awarded $25,000 for his ingenuity in addition to his Top Young Scientist title.
- Heman Bekele competed against nine other finalists. The competition lasted four months but finally came out victorious during Challenge events at 3M global headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota on October 9 and 10. The finalists were judged on their creative thinking skills, their passion, their research and presentation abilities, their application of STEM principles, and how inspirational they were.
- There were many incredible teenagers competing in the challenge. John Banovetz, 3M executive vice president, said in a statement: “The need for scientists and innovators to develop solutions for the world’s biggest challenges has never been greater. This year’s Young Scientist Challenge finalists have demonstrated the skills required to reimagine what’s possible—intelligence, curiosity, collaboration, and resilience. The magnitude and complexity of the issues these young minds are working to solve is inspiring. Congratulations to this year’s finalists—we can’t wait to see what you do next!”
- Bekele was inspired to create his soap after discovering some startling facts about melanoma. The teen, who was born in Ethiopia, said he was shocked to find the difference in melanoma recovery rates in the US compared to sub-Saharan Africa, which is 99% to 20%. So, he combined a few affordable compounds to make a soap that simulates dendritic cell activity which protects the skin
- He’s not giving up now, either. Heman Bekele says he hopes he can continue to refine his soap over the coming years. He eventually wants to create a nonprofit organization and distribute the soap to communities that need it most.