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9th Grade Boy Creates Soap to Cure Skin Cancer

14-Year Old Heman Bekele named "America's Top Young Scientist" by 3M and Discovery Education

Kudos to Heman Bekele, a middle-school student from W.T. Woodson High School in Annandale, Va., the winner of the 2023 3M Young Scientist Challenge, the nation's premier 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."

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.

The Ethiopian-born Heman describes the science behind the soap in this PBS News Hour Interview. Heman's SCTS is not available yet. However, making his soap is expected to cost about 50 cents a bar, or $8.50 for 20 bars, making it affordable to people in need in low income communities and developing countries. The current cost of treating skin cancer for an individual is a prohibitive $40,000.

Fairfax County Public Schools is proud of Heman's accomplishment and published an article about his win.

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. America's Top Young Scientists have gone on to give TED Talks, file patents, found nonprofits, make the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, and exhibit at the White House Science Fair. These young innovators have also been named TIME Magazine's first Kid of the Year, featured in The New York Times Magazine, Forbes, and Business Insider, and have appeared on national television programs such as Good Morning America, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and more. In addition, a 3M Young Scientist Challenge Alumni Network was formed in fall 2022 and welcomed more than 100 former challenge finalists and winners for networking opportunities.

Heman is a bright light. Keep an eye on him and these other young scientists who will be changing the world as they develop even further.


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