14-Year-Old Named America's Top Young Scientist for Skin Cancer Treatment

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, with an average annual treatment cost of $8.1 billion.

Heman Bekele, 14, is the winner of the 2023 3M Young Scientist Challenge.
Heman Bekele, 14, is the winner of the 2023 3M Young Scientist Challenge.

3M and Discovery Education recently named Heman Bekele, a 9th grader at W.T. Woodson High School in Annandale, Va., the winner of the 2023 3M Young Scientist Challenge, a middle school science competition. Heman set himself apart with his compound-based Skin Cancer Treating Soap (SCTS). As the grand prize winner, he will receive a $25,000 cash prize and the prestigious title of "America's Top Young Scientist."

Heman spent the last four months competing against nine other finalists and secured his win during final challenge events at 3M global headquarters in St. Paul, Minn., on October 9 and 10.

Finalists navigated a series of interactive challenges and were evaluated on their ingenuity and innovative thinking, application of STEM principles, demonstration of passion and research, presentation skills, and ability to inspire others.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, with an average annual treatment cost of $8.1 billion. Inspired by this costly and widespread health issue, Heman developed an affordable soap solution that could positively impact skin cancer outcomes. 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.

Young Scientist Challenge finalists are paired with a 3M scientist who mentors and works with them one-on-one over the summer to transform their idea from concept to prototype. This year's winner was paired with Deborah Isabelle, Product Engineering Specialist, Abrasives, 3M Automotive Aftermarket Division.

The program's Improving Lives Award gives students, teachers, parents, and other members of the public a chance to cast their vote for the innovation they believe has the most potential to make a positive impact on the world. This year's winner is Annie Katz, a 9th grader at Leffell School in New Rochelle, N.Y., whose Automated Ultrasound Hamstring Lesion Detection & Diagnosis device offers a more accessible way to detect and recover from hamstring lesions. As the Improving Lives Award winner, Annie will receive a $2,000 prize.

The second and third place winners from the Young Scientist Challenge each receive a $2,000 prize. These exceptional students are:

  • In second place, Shripriya Kalbhavi from San Jose, Calif., a 9th grader at Lynbrook High School. Shripriya developed EasyBZ, a cost-effective microneedle patch that allows for self-automated drug delivery without pills or needles.
  • In third place, Sarah Wang from Andover, Mass., a 7th grader at The Pike School. Sarah developed the Spring Epilepsy Detection Glove, a glove that can detect tonic-clonic and myoclonic epileptic seizures with common hand movements and tracks seizure statistics through a smart phone application.

The fourth through tenth place winners each receive a $1,000 prize and a $500 gift card. These finalists, in alphabetical order by last name, are:

  • Anisha Dhoot from Portland, Ore., a 9th grader at Westview High School in Beaverton School District
  • Ishaan Iyer from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., a 6th grader at Day Creek Intermediate School in Etiwanda School District
  • Sean Jiang from Baltimore, Md., a 9th grader at Gilman School, Independent/Private
  • Annie Katz from New Rochelle, N.Y., a 9th grader at Leffell School in Greenburgh School District
  • Anish Kosaraju from Saratoga, Calif., a 9th grader at The Harker School in Campbell Union School District
  • Adhip Maitra from Oviedo, Fla., a 9th grader at Oviedo High School in Seminole County School District
  • Shruti Sivaraman from Austin, Tex., an 8th grader at Canyon Vista Middle School in Round Rock Independent School District

In its sixteenth year, the 3M Young Scientist Challenge continues to inspire and challenge middle school students to think creatively and apply the power of STEM to discover real-world solutions.

More in News