California Teen Named America’s Top Young Scientist for Invention to Treat Middle Ear Infections

finsen headphones leanne fan
November 16, 2022

ST. PAUL, MN and CHARLOTTE, N.C. — 3M and Discovery Education have named Leanne Fan, a 9th grader at Westville High School in Poway Unified School District in San Diego, Calif., the winner of the 2022 3M Young Scientist Challenge, the nation’s premier middle school science competition.

As the 3M Young Scientist Challenge grand prize winner, Leanne received a $25,000 cash prize, the prestigious title of “America’s Top Young Scientist” and a special destination trip.

The world sees 700 million cases of mid-ear infections and nearly 21,000 deaths annually. Leanne’s invention, Finsen Headphones, looks to provide an antibiotic free, low-cost option to detect and treat a mid-ear infection using machine learning and blue light therapy. The use of Finsen Headphones could potentially reduce the number of children who suffer from hearing loss by up to 60 percent.

Now in its fifteenth year, the 2022 3M Young Scientist Challenge hosted the two-day competition on Oct. 17 and 18 at 3M global headquarters in St. Paul, Minn. This year’s winner competed against eight other finalists, each was evaluated through a series of interactive challenges and the final presentation of their innovation. These young inventors earned top spots in the competition through their innovative thinking, scientific acumen and exceptional communication skills.

“We are thrilled to celebrate this next generation of scientific leaders. Each of this year’s finalists demonstrates the power of science to improve lives and the communities we live in. Congratulations to this year’s Top Young Scientist, Leanne Fan, and all the finalists. Your dedication, ingenuity and innovative spirit are inspiring to us all.” 

Karina Chavez, SVP and chief strategy officer at 3M

In its fifteenth year, the 3M Young Scientist Challenge continues to inspire and challenge middle school students to think creatively and apply the power of STEM to discover real-world solutions. America’s Top Young Scientists have gone on to give TED Talks, file patents, found nonprofits, make the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange and exhibit at the White House Science Fair. These young innovators have also been named Time Magazine’s first Kid of the Year, featured in The New York Times Magazine, Forbes and Business Insider, and have appeared on national television programs such as Good Morning America, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and more. In addition, the 3M Young Scientist Challenge Alumni Network began in the fall of 2022 and welcomes more than 100 former challenge finalists and winners for networking and grant award opportunities.

The award-winning 3M Young Scientist Challenge supplements the 3M and Discovery Education program – Young Scientist Lab – which provides no-cost dynamic digital resources for students, teachers and families to explore, transform and innovate the world around them. All the resources are also available through the Young Scientist Lab Channel and in the Social Impact Partnerships channel on Discovery Education’s recently enhanced K-12 learning platform.

To learn more about the 3M Young Scientist Challenge and meet this year’s winners and finalists, visit


About 3M
3M (NYSE: MMM) believes science helps create a brighter world for everyone. By unlocking the power of people, ideas and science to reimagine what’s possible, our global team uniquely addresses the opportunities and challenges of our customers, communities, and planet.


About Discovery Education
Discovery Education is the worldwide edtech leader whose state-of-the-art digital platform supports learning wherever it takes place. Through its award-winning multimedia content, instructional supports, and innovative classroom tools, Discovery Education helps educators deliver equitable learning experiences engaging all students and supporting higher academic achievement on a global scale. Discovery Education serves approximately 4.5 million educators and 45 million students worldwide, and its resources are accessed in over 100 countries and territories. Inspired by the global media company Discovery, Inc., Discovery Education partners with districts, states, and trusted organizations to empower teachers with leading edtech solutions that support the success of all learners. Explore the future of education at


Source: 3M

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