America’s Top Young Scientist: 14-year-old Invents Soap to Treat Skin Cancer

October 24, 2023
two bars of soap

I believe that young minds can make a positive impact on the world.

Heman Bekele, a 9th grader from Virginia who won first place at 3M and Discovery Education’s Young Scientist Challenge for developing a prototype of “an affordable soap solution that could positively impact skin cancer outcomes”; as winner, he was named “America’s Top Young Scientist.”

Why It Matters: Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. In his submission video for the competition (“considered one of the country’s top middle school science competitions” [USA Today]), Bekele said he felt the high treatment costs and “lower survival rates in areas with limited access to healthcare” were motivating factors behind his research (Washingtonian). Paired with 3M scientist, Deborah Isabelle, Bekele received mentorship over the summer to turn his idea into a prototype. In the soap, he combined materials that help reactivate cells which improve immune responses and protect the skin; Bekele said one bar cost about 50 cents to make,or $10 for a pack of 20.

What’s Next? Bekele hopes to continue refining the soap so he can one day create a nonprofit to distribute his product to those in need.

Read More:

A Ninth Grader for Annandale Is “America’s Top Young Scientist” (Washingtonian)

14-year-old named America’s Top Young Scientist for development of skin cancer treatment (3M)

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

by Sarah Pinkerton,