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3M Young Scientist Challenge Winner

Every year the 3M Young Scientist Challenge invites students in Grades 5-8 to send in a one- to two-minute video describing a different way to solve an everyday problem. Students have a chance to win $25,000 and to be mentored by (learn from and work with) a 3M scientist! In 2020, a 14-year-old girl, Anika Chebrolu, won the 3M Young Scientist Challenge. At the time, Anika was an 8th grader at Nelson Middle School in Frisco, TX.

The 3M Company is a big American company that makes many things that are used at home, school, work, and in hospitals. Some of the things that 3M makes are Scotch brand tape, glue, sandpaper, laminates (the clear plastic that is glued onto paper to keep it from tearing, like a sign on a window or door), car wax, and masks and gloves that doctors and nurses wear. The N95 masks that doctors and nurses wear and that have been talked about as being a good mask to wear to protect from COVID-19 were first invented by 3M in 1972.

Spike Protein

Anika won this challenge with her idea of using in-silico methodology (done by making a model on a computer) to find a molecule that can stick to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (COVID-19). A molecule is the smallest unit of a substance that has all of the properties of that substance. For example, a water molecule is the smallest unit that is still water. Spike proteins are the red points in the picture of COVID-19. They let the virus hold onto its host cell so that it can infect it. Cells are the basic building blocks of all living things.

This idea could be a step in finding ways to stop COVID-19. It is extraordinary for a scientist to discover this and even more usual for someone so young. This young scientist is not yet done and would like to see her discovery being used. She hopes to continue to work with scientists and put the discovery into use.

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