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Frisco 14-year-old wins national award, earns respect of science community

Life lately for Anika Chebrolu, 14, has been managing the hundreds of interview requests worldwide, calls from scientists, and a recent offer from a college.

FRISCO, Texas — A Frisco teen is making a name for herself after winning a prestigious national award for young scientists. 

Anika Chebrolu, 14, won the 2020 3M Young Scientist Challenge and a $25,000 prize for a discovery that could open the door for a possible therapy to COVID-19.

Chebrolu first came across the in-silico method for drug discovery, which uses software and databases instead of lab testing, in the 8th grade at Nelson Middle School in Frisco. She quickly pivoted from researching influenza to researching the molecule that could inhibit the protein behind COVID-19 for her 3M competition.

"Stopping that protein, we'll be able to stop the virus from entering and infecting host cells which makes it a very effective drug target," Chebrolu said.

The molecule she found is more than 50 letters long. She wanted to wait to publicize the name of the molecule until she had an opportunity to do more testing.

Chebrolu said she also loves creating art pieces and performing in Indian classical dance. But lately, her attention has been on the competition and managing the sudden explosion of attention.

She says a good number of people and scientists have called the house about her project. She also has more than 300 interview requests spanning worldwide, and this week she got an offer from a college. Chebrolu hopes this inspires other young scientist to be curious.

"No question is a bad question. Stay curious and keep on asking questions," she said.