By: Shreyoshi Chakraborti
Anika Chebrolu, a 14-year-old Indian American from Frisco, Texas was conferred winner of the 3M Young Scientist Challenge 2020, for her discovery that could provide a potential treatment for COVID-19. She is an eighth-grader at Nelson Middle School and was enthusiastic about joining the challenge because of the bout of influenza infections in 2019, and the toll that influenza took on her last year. But with the onset of the pandemic, her research goal shifted towards finding out in silico lead compounds for COVID-specific protein with greater hope of curbing the pandemic. With the $25,000 USD prize, Chebrolu will receive free mentorship as a part of winning the challenge. Her work involves using in silico methodology for drug discovery which gave the lead compound that needs in vivo and in vitro testing for validation. Her research involves finding a molecule that can selectively bind spike protein of the SARS-COV-2 virus, which is a part of the bigger project of 3M. 3M is an American manufacturing company based in Minnesota. She was selected as one of the 10 finalists in this year’s 3M Young Scientists Challenge.
“ Science is the basis of life and the entire universe and we have a long way to go understand it fully,” said Chebrolu, who wants to become a medical researcher and professor in the future. Chebrolu said that winning the prize and title of the top young scientist is an honor, but her work isn’t done yet. Her next goal, she says, is to work alongside scientists and researchers who are fighting to “control the morbidity and mortality” of the pandemic by developing her findings into an actual cure for the virus. When she isn’t in a lab or working toward her goal of becoming a doctor or researcher, Anika trains for the Indian classical dance called Bharatanatyam, which she has been practicing for eight years.