14-year-old Kara Fan was just named the winner of the 2019 3M Young Scientist Challenge, an annual innovation competition hosted in partnership with Discovery Education. The ninth-grader from San Diego, California earned the ‘America’s Top Young Scientist’ title for her real-world, problem-solving invention – a first aid liquid bandage using nano-silver technology to reduce the risk of superbug infections caused by antibiotic overuse.

According to the press release announcing her, this is innovative thinking and process Kara used in developing her invention. “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 her nano-silver liquid bandage “to replace the use of more commonly used over-the-counter antibiotics ointments and first aid treatments.” With it, she “hopes to reduce the number of incidents related to drug-resistant infections.”

Kara Fan
Kara Fan, age 14, presenting her invention to the panel of judges during the live competition

In taking the top prize, which includes the “America’s Top Young Scientist” title, a $25,000 cash prize, and a surprise destination trip, Kara competed against nine other finalists during a live competition that was judged by a panel of scientists and leaders from 3M and Discovery Education. As part of the overall 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.”

All photos credit to 3M