14-year-old who invented soap to treat skin cancer named America’s Top Young Scientist


"America's Top Young Scientist" is a 14-year-old who invented a soap that treats skin cancer.

Heman Bekele, a ninth grader from Annandale, Virginia, won the prestigious award from 3M and Discovery Education, considered one of the country's top middle school science competitions.

"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," he said.

Heman Bekele, a 14-year-old from Annandale, Virginia, won the prestigious 3M Young Scientist Challenge for developing a soap to treat melanoma. He received the award earlier this month in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Heman spent the past four months competing against nine other finalists to be named "America's Top Young Scientist." The competition was created to help student between the fifth and eighth grades create an innovative idea to change their world.

In addition to the prestigious title, young scientists who win the award get a $25,000 cash prize.

Heman won this year's grand prize at 3M's headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Oct. 9 and 10, according to a news release announcing the award.

Heman Bekele, 14, is pictured in St. Paul, Minnesota in October 2023 after winning the Young Scientists Challenge for inventing soap to treat melanoma. With him is his mentor, Deborah Isabelle, a product engineering specialist at 3M.

Shripriya Kalbhavi, a ninth-grader from San Jose, California, won second place for developing a cost-effective patch that allows for self-automated medication delivery without pills or needles.

Sarah Wang, a seventh-grader from Andover, Massachusetts, came in third place for developing a glove that can detect certain epileptic seizures with common hand movements.

Shripriya and Sarah each won $2,000, while the students who placed fourth through 10th won a $1,000 prize and a $500 gift card. The other students recognized hail from Portland, Oregon, Baltimore, New Rochelle, New York, Austin, Texas, and Oviedo, Florida, among others.

More about Heman Bekele's invention to treat skin cancer

Heman developed a compound-based bar of soap designed to treat melanoma. The bar of soap costs about $.50 to make.

Heman hopes to refine his innovation and create a non-profit organization to distribute the soap to communities in need over the next five years, according to 3M and Discovery Education.

Competition organizers didn't immediately respond to USA TODAY's request to interview Heman on Monday.

Skin cancer cases rising in the US

Skin cancer cases have increased in the U.S. over the past few decades, the National Cancer Institute found.

The rate of new cases rose to 24.1 per 100,000 people in 2019, compared to 14.6 in 1992.

The National Institute of Health reports that skin cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed groups of cancers worldwide, with 1.5 million new cases estimated in 2020.

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