3M Young Scientist Prize: Indian-American Anika Chebrolu, 14, Has Set Out to Destroy Coronavirus


3M Young Scientist Prize: Indian-American Anika Chebrolu, 14, Has Set Out to Destroy Coronavirus

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

While most eighth grade students spend their time thinking about texting and video games, 14-year-old Anika Chebrolu from Texas was busy researching methods to contain and control the coronavirus. The Indian-American middle school student won the 3M Young Scientist 2020 Prize, which includes a reward of $25,000.

3M, a US-based manufacturing company, also awarded Chebrolu an exclusive mentorship. Her project included work on a molecule that would bind to a protein on the coronavirus, causing it to stop functioning. Chebrolu used an in-silico methodology to find a molecule that selectively bound itself to the spike protein of the SARS-Cov-2 virus, which causes Covid-19.

Chebrolu’s win has got her a lot of media attention. She believes that the fact that her project was focussed on Covid-19 helped with that, and that her win is indicative of how people worldwide are wishing for the pandemic to end. “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.

By being awarded the Young Scientist 2020 prize, Chebrolu has shown why more female students need to take up STEM courses, which remain male-dominated even today. Chebrolu’s work greatly impressed the judges of the competition. Dr Cindy Moss, one the judges, said, “Her work was comprehensive and examined numerous databases. She also developed an understanding of the innovation process and is a masterful communicator. Her willingness to use her time and talent to help make the world a better place gives us all hope.”

At the tender age of 14, Chebrolu has already impressed the world. With her entire future stretching before her, there’s no telling where she’ll go next.