(FeaturedNews.com) – A young freshman at W.T. Woodson High School in Virginia’s Fairfax County Public Schools system turned his curiosity into a remarkable scientific endeavor, aimed at addressing the pressing issue of skin cancer treatment. Heman Bekele, who originally hails from Ethiopia, secured the title of “America’s Top Young Scientist” along with a $25,000 prize in this year’s 3M Young Scientist Challenge.
Bekele’s venture into creating a soap for treating skin cancer was inspired by witnessing the plight of individuals in developing nations, including his homeland, who labor outdoors under harsh sunlight. The high costs associated with skin cancer treatments, averaging around $40,000, deeply concerned him. He lamented the tragic choice many have to make between life-saving treatments and basic necessities like food.
Being a science enthusiast, Bekele embarked on a journey to study the role of dendritic cells in the immune system’s fight against cancer. After extensive research, he concocted a soap infused with ingredients such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and tretinoin, targeting these crucial cells. A significant hurdle he faced was ensuring the soap’s structural integrity. Eventually, he solved this issue by integrating a blend of 3M Cavilon moisturizer, coconut oil, and organic shea butter.
Medical experts, like Eric D. Whitman, M.D., have acknowledged Bekele’s innovative approach, calling it a topical immune-activating agent with promise, though they caution that further clinical testing is essential. Bekele was not alone on this scientific expedition; he collaborated with a mentor, Deborah Isabelle from 3M, and received additional support from the University of Virginia researchers, school educators, and, most importantly, his family, who have always nurtured his passion for STEM.
Bekele emerged victorious among ten finalists, assessed on a range of criteria including ingenuity, STEM application, and presentation skills. He intends to allocate his winnings toward patenting his invention and funding his higher education. Further, he aspires to establish a nonprofit to make his soap accessible in economically disadvantaged communities.
As he moves forward, Bekele’s story serves as a potent reminder that the catalyst for solving global issues often lies in individual determination—a lesson not just for aspiring young minds, but also for adults who sometimes forget the power of resolve.
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