- The 14-year-old from Texas wins the $25,000 3M Young Scientist Challenge prize.
Indian American teenager, 14-year-old Anika Chebrolu from Frisco, Texas, has won the 2020 3M Young Scientist Challenge. Chebrolu won the $25,000 prize for her discovery that could provide a potential therapy to Covid-19. The 3M Young Scientist Challenge is the nation’s premier science competition for grades 5-8.
Anika’s winning invention uses in-silico methodology to discover a lead molecule that can selectively bind to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, CNN reported.
“The last two days, I saw that there is a lot of media hype about my project since it involves the SARS-CoV-2 virus and it reflects our collective hopes to end this pandemic as I, like everyone else, wish that we go back to our normal lives soon,” Anika told CNN.
Chebrolu says she was inspired to find potential cures to viruses after learning about the 1918 flu pandemic and finding out how many people die every year in the country despite annual vaccinations and the anti-influenza drugs on the market.
“I have always been amazed by science experiments since my childhood and I was drawn towards finding effective cures for Influenza disease after a severe bout of the infection last year,” she told Young Scientist Lab.
“After spending so much time researching about pandemics, viruses and drug discovery, it was crazy to think that I was actually living through something like this,” Anika told CNN. Because of the immense severity of the Covid 19 pandemic and the drastic impact it had made on the world in such a short time, she changed directions with the help of her mentor to target the SARS-Cov-2 virus, she said.
Chebrolu further said that winning the prize and title of top young scientist is an honor but her work isn’t done. She is aiming to work alongside scientists and researchers by developing her findings into an actual cure for the virus. When she is not engaged in scientific pursuits, Anika enjoys practicing Bharatanatyam, which she has been learning for the past eight years.
But really, how does she feel being called America’s top young scientist. “It’s exciting. I’m still trying to process everything,” she told KTVT. She thanks her grandfather for inspiring her to pursue science. “My grandpa when I was younger he always used to push me toward science. He was actually a chemistry professor and he used to always tell me to learn the periodic table of elements,” she said. “Over time I just grew to love it.”