California Teen Wins 3M Young Scientist Top Prize

By Chemical Processing Staff

Nov 04, 2019

3M and Discovery Education name 14-year-old Kara Fan from San Diego, California, the winner of the 2019 3M Young Scientist Challenge. Kara invented a first aid liquid bandage using nano-silver technology to reduce the risk of superbug infections caused by antibiotic overuse.

Using the biosynthesis method—a multi-step, enzyme-catalyzed process where substrates are converted into more complex products in living organisms—Kara created a nano-silver (AgNP) solution using lemon leaf and silver nitrate to effectively kill and prevent the growth of bacteria. Her solution was tested using the Kirby-Bauer Method against staphylococcus epidermidis, E. coli K12 and bacillus subtilis on a petri plate to measure the zone of inhibition (the circular area around the spot of the antibiotic use in which bacteria colonies do not grow). Finally, Kara mixed the nano-silver solution with a water-soluble polymer (PVP) to create the liquid bandage. Kara formulated a nano-silver liquid bandage to replace the use of more commonly used over-the-counter antibiotics ointments and first aid treatments. With her invention, Kara hopes to reduce the number of incidents related to drug-resistant infections.

Kara, a ninth grader at Westview High School, Poway Unified School District, competed against nine other finalists during a live competition at the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul, Minn. October 28-29. As the winner of this year’s 3M Young Scientist Challenge, Kara was awarded the title of “America’s Top Young Scientist” as well as a $25,000 cash prize and a surprise destination trip.

“Our communities want science to solve the world’s toughest challenges; we hear this in our research on the State of Science. This year’s finalists have truly inspired us with their ingenious efforts to think innovatively and solve real-world problems,” says Denise Rutherford, senior vice president, corporate affairs at 3M. “As a company that remains deeply committed to STEM education and advancement, we wish this next generation of science leaders the best on their continued journey. Congratulations to this year’s winner, Kara Fan, and all our Young Scientist Challenge finalists.”

As part of the program, challenge finalists had the unique opportunity to work one on one with a 3M scientist to transform their ideas from concept to physical prototype as part of the competition’s mentorship program. Kara was paired with Sara Frisco, a 3M advanced product development engineer in the commercial solutions division.

At the final event, finalists presented their inventions to a panel of scientists and leaders from 3M and Discovery Education. In addition to presenting their prototypes, finalists were also paired up to compete in two mini-challenges in which they used 3M technologies and materials to solve, and were evaluated on skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, communication and problem-solving.

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