Anika Chebrolu, a 14-year-old Indian-American girl from Texas, has won the 2020 3M Young Scientist Challenge for discovering a potential drug to treat COVID-19.
The 3M Young Scientist Challenge is a prestigious middle-school competition in the United States. Anika was one of the 10 finalists in the championship; she won an exclusive 3M membership along with $25,000 to work on her project.
Anika developed a molecule – using the in-silico methodology – that can bind a protein of SARS-CoV-2, and prevent it from functioning. She was mentored by Dr. Mahfuza Ali, a 3M corporate scientist, who helped her use the scientific method to realise her idea into reality.
“It’s exciting. I’m still trying to process everything,” she told ABC News.
Anika had decided to take part in the competition with the aim to find a solution for influenza, which she was infected with last year. However, with the pandemic taking over everyone’s lives, she decided to change her area of focus.
Anika Chebrolu’s win is a win for young girls everywhere
She 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, I, with the help of my mentor, changed directions to target the SARS-CoV-2 virus.”
Anika, who wants to grow up to be a medical researcher and professor, understands why her project has made the news in such a big way. “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,” she told CNN.
Anika’s next goal is to develop her findings with the help of researchers and scientists to control the effects of the pandemic. “My effort to find a lead compound to bind to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus this summer may appear to be a drop in the ocean, but still adds to all these efforts,” she said.
It truly makes our day to see girls and young women be the best at what they do. Many stories of young girls have made it into the spotlight recently – like two Surat schoolgirls who discovered an asteroid, a 17-year-old Surat girl being named the Indian Ambassador for the UN Environment Programme, and an 18-year-old girl who became the British High Commissioner for a day.
It goes without saying that girls deserve to be educated and made financially independent for them to live full, well-rounded lives. With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the chances and ability of thousands of girls to go to school, achievements such as Anika’s and others’ are a beacon of hope.
As history reminds us time and time again: Girls can do anything!
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