Not all teenagers spend their time frivolously. There are a few, like Anika Chebrolu, who want to use their time in constructive research for the well-being of the planet.
The 15-year-old from Frisco, Texas won the 2020 3M Young Scientist Challenge, which came with a prize of $25,000, for an innovation that could help against COVID-19. Anika was also awarded an exclusive 3M mentorship. She has also won the prestigious title of ‘America’s Top Young Scientist’ award.
She achieved that distinction when she was studying in her eighth grade, while at the Nelson Middle School in Frisco, Texas.
Tackling the Virus
3M Young Scientist Challenge is regarded as a premier middle-school science competition in the U.S.
Anika found a molecule that selectively bound to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus – which itself binds to cells in the lung. This impedes the ability of the virus to infect people. She used computer modeling and researched numerous databases to come up with the molecule.
A battle with severe influenza in 2019 induced Anika to take part in the Young Scientist Challenge and find cures for influenza.
Learning about the 1918 flu pandemic and the continuing raves of the disease, despite annual vaccinations and anti-influenza drugs being available, spurred her on.
While that was the initial direction of her project, the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it had on the world influenced her and her mentor to change direction and focus on the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
After winning the prize, Anika revealed that she wanted to become a medical researcher and a professor. Ten years from now, you may find her right there.
Goal to Cure
As a finalist to the 2020 edition of the 3M Young Scientist Challenge (she was one among the 10 finalists), she worked with 3M Corporate Scientist Dr Mahfuza Ali, who mentored Anika one-on-one.
Anika spent every summer day in 2020 working on the project. Like other finalists, she was evaluated on an array of challenges and the presentation of her completed work.
With the third wave of COVID upon us, and Omicron spreading fast, her research is now very relevant. Anika is very active on social media. She has been disseminating important scientific information on Twitter on a fairly regular basis.
Despite her strong academic predilections, her interest is not solely focused on the sciences, for she has been practicing Bharatanatyam for eight years and is a bit of an artist, too.