A high school freshman in Frisco, Texas has been named America's Top Young Scientist after discovering a molecule that could help stop COVID-19 from entering cells.

14-year-old Anika Chebrolu of Independence High School was an eighth grader at Nelson Middle School when she began her project for the 3M/Discovery Young Scientist Challenge. According to a news release from Frisco ISD, Chebrolu's research involved screening millions of molecules that could selectively bind to the spike protein that surrounds the SARS-CoV-2 and acts to both camouflage the virus from the immune system and help it bind to healthy cell membranes.

Using a number of software tools, Chebrolu found a lead molecule with the potential to bind to the spike protein and prevent the virus from entering a cell. That molecule could end up being a key ingredient in a drug to effectively treat COVID-19 and save lives.

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When Chebrolu was named a finalist over the summer, she worked under the mentorship of 3M Corporate Scientist Dr. Mahfuza Ali, who helped her further her research. She gave her presentation to a panel of judges who were thoroughly impressed by her work and her spirit.

As the grand prize winner, Chebrolu received $25,000 cash, a destination trip, and, of course, the title of America's Top Young Scientist 2020.

"I am extremely humbled at being selected America's Top Young Scientist as all of the finalists had amazing projects and were extremely well-rounded individuals," Chebrolu said. "Science is the basis of life and the entire universe and we have a long way to go understand it fully."

I love her attitude. To paraphrase Carl Sagan, science is and should be a humbling experience and character-building experience. That seems to be the case with this impressive young lady.

Chebrolu's ultimate goal is to become a medical researcher and profession, and it looks like she's already off to a strong start. CNN reports that she's also studying traditionally Indian dance and creates art.

Again, she was in the eight grade when she began this project. What were any of us doing at that age? Not finding a potential treatment for a global pandemic, that's for sure.

Congratulations to Anika Chebrolu. Texas is proud of you!

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