A science competition which awarded only $25,000 to a Texas teen for developing potential COVID-19 treatment is getting backlash.
According to a statement from Frisco Independent School District in Texas, Anika Chebrolu won the 3M Young Scientist Challenge after finding a molecule which can possibly be used as a drug treatment for the coronavirus.
Introducing America's Top #YoungScientist, 14-year-old Anika Chebrolu! Learn more about her winning project that won the top prize at this year's 3M Discovery Education Young Scientist Challenge: https://t.co/I5J7z6zlI4 ???????????? pic.twitter.com/jKHCTS3bcU
— 3M (@3M) October 15, 2020
“I developed this molecule that can bind to a certain protein on the SARS COVID-2 virus,” Chebrolu said, according to CBS DFW. “This protein by binding to it it will stop the function of the protein. I started with a database of over 682 million compounds.”
According to the school district, the 3M/Discovery Young Scientist Challenge is considered to be the nation’s premier middle school science competition.
The 14-year-old also earned the title of America’s Top Young Scientist and won a special destination trip in addition to the cash prize. But the award was not enough in the eyes of the public.
Many critics who expressed their bewilderment on social media saw the prize as laughable.
25k….. what a fn joke
— HOOKEM (@texas_4life) October 16, 2020
Some people noted the questionable competition appears to be a cheaper shortcut to finding a cure for COVID-19.
Not them desperately looking for the cure & disguising it as a competition between teenagers.
— nae. (@euphorixa) October 16, 2020
Considering the cost of tuition and other expenses, which Chebrolu could possibly face in the coming years, many people didn't see the $25,000 award as a helpful investment into the teen's future.
Only $25k?! That doesn’t even pay for her student loans (if she has any). The math ain’t mathin’ rn. pic.twitter.com/6fCFxMQdMu
— BAKUHOE!???? (@sakura_punch) October 17, 2020
According to KSAT, the organizer of the science competition is a manufacturing company based in Minnesota. But some people had to question who assessed the value of the teen’s contribution.
Wow, who assessed the value of this teen’s contribution? GameStop?!
— Michael Montgomery (@_CodeBlooded_) October 17, 2020
With more than 200,000 Americans dead due to COVID-19, social media users refused to accept the prize as a justifiable award for an unprecedented challenge.
???? Awarded 25K for developing a cure for COVID which has killed over 200,000 people in America alone?? pic.twitter.com/96FjA95TSu
— Glacier Bwoy ???????? (@MJ_WhozBad) October 16, 2020
Chebrolu started the project when she was in middle school earlier this year, originally focusing her project on combating the seasonal flu. But her goals changed as the pandemic took a toll on the country.
“We just always have this constant fear who’s going to be affect by the coronavirus,” the freshman said.
The 14-year-old plans to pursue a career as a medical researcher after high school.
“My grandpa when I was younger he always used to push me toward science," she said. "He was actually a chemistry professor and he used to always tell me learn the periodic table of elements. Over time I just grew to love it.”
When she's not busy finding a cure for a global pandemic, the teenager enjoys classical Indian dancing and developing her skills as an artist.
“I describe myself as a person who aspires to be a lot of things,” she said.
Chebrolu had her own battle with a severe influenza infection last year.
“I was drawn towards finding effective cures for Influenza disease after a severe bout of the infection last year,” the researcher said. “I would like to learn more from 3M scientists to pursue my drug development and with their help, would like to conduct in-vitro and in-vivo testing of my lead drug candidate.”
The teen was one of 10 total finalists in the 3M Young Scientist Challenge.