A 14-year-old Virginia student has been named the “America’s Top Young Scientist” for developing a bar of soap designed to treat skin cancer.
Heman Bekele, a 9th grader at W.T. Woodson High School in Annandale, Va., was the winner of the 2023 3M Young Scientist Challenge – a premiere middle school science competition.
“I believe that young minds can make a positive impact on the world,” Heman said in his submission for the award.
The competition was created to challenge the country’s fifth through eighth-grade students to create an innovative idea that to change their world.
“I have always been interested in biology and technology, and this challenge gave me the perfect platform to showcase my ideas,” Bekele said.
Bekele’s compound-based Skin Cancer Treating Soap (SCTS) was developed to treat melanoma after seeing people from his native land of Ethiopia suffer from the disease after working long hours in the sun.
The young boy developed the soap solution to potentially impact early stages of skin cancer if it is proven to be effective. According to ABC News, it costs only $8.50 to create 20 bars of the Bekele’s soap.
He and nine other of the competition’s finalists were paired with 3M scientists to work on their design, bringing it from concept to prototype, according to a 3M press release.
“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,” said John Banovetz, 3M executive vice president, chief technology officer, and environmental responsibility. “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 secured the win during final Challenge events at 3M global headquarters in St. Paul, Minn., on Oct. 9 and 10.
Over the next five years, he hopes to refine this novel innovation and create a nonprofit organization that will distribute this low-cost solution to communities in need.
Bekele said he is working on a formula and hopes it will be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
In addition to the title, he was awarded a $25,000 cash prize.