Skip to main content

2023 Young Scientist Challenge Winner Heman Bekele. Photograph creditf 3M and Discovery Education.

2023 Young Scientist Challenge Winner Heman Bekele. Photo credit: 3M and Discovery Education.

Heman Bekele, a 14-year-old from Annandale, Virginia, was just named “America’s Top Young Scientist.” The distinction comes along with winning 3M’s annual Young Scientist Challenge and $25,000 dollars.

The 2023 Young Scientist Challenge Finalists

Top 10 Finalist - 3M Young Scientist Challenge

These ten finalists rose to the top in 3M’s 2023 Young Scientist Challenge.

The top 10 2023 3M Young Scientist Challenge finalists include:

More about the finalists is available on

The Clean Winner

Bekele combined salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and tretinoin, three common skin care molecules, into a “cancer-fighting” soap. All three are keratolytic agents that slowly reactivate dendritic cells, which help protect the skin and boost immune responses. Cosmetically, they also help remove the dead, outer skin layer and bring younger skin cells to the surface.

“Cancer-Fighting” is in Quotes

“I know that the average price of skin cancer treatment in the U.S. alone is almost $40,000, but my bar of soap only costs $8.50 to create, and it can replicate the same effects as something that people would pay thousands and thousands of dollars to try to get,” Bekele said.

Keratolytic drugs have been used to treat psoriasis and have been shown to decrease solar keratosis, a precursor to some skin cancers, aka sun damage. However, the soap cannot be recommended to treat frank skin cancer. More research is needed to know the role the soap may play.

Even proven topical chemotherapy agents like 5-Fluorouracil and Imiquimod are only indicated for very superficial skin cancers and require close professional follow-up to determine effectiveness. Deeper skin cancers still require surgical excision. If you have squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma and especially melanoma, seek an experienced, board certified Dermatologist or Plastic Surgeon for definitive treatment.

On the other hand, if a $10 bar of soap can eliminate even a small percentage of skin cancers, the potential savings in cost, time and anxiety is well worth it.

Congratulations Heman Bekele

Congratulations Heman Bekele, can’t wait to see what you do after high school. Electrical Engineering is a great major, but I am a little biased as it was my major at UC Davis before entering medical school.

(925) 943-6353
Book an Appointment