As Within So Without

America's Top Young Scientist

Young Scientist Challenge 

Every year, 3M and Discovery Education search the country for America's Top Young Scientists. This year the title goes to 14-year-old Leanne Fan. 


Leeann Fan

There are 700 million cases of mid-ear infections every year, nearly 21,000 deaths, and children lose their hearing from the illness. Could  Fan's Finsen Headphones help with those statistics? 3M is betting on it. 


Fan predicts they will reduce the need for antibiotics for children with a middle ear infection by 60%!

Winner of 3m contest

 "The great thing is I'm not making a medicine you have to eat, so it's a lot easier to get approved," she said. "I want to get into cadaver tests to ensure it's still safe and on actual eardrums, then human studies, then a patent, and then work with people to make it a business."

Winner of 3m Leanne fan

The technology uses blue light therapy. Which is already being used by dermatologist to treat acne, skin cancer, and  skin disorders. 

Leanne fan Headphones
When asked in an interview how she came up with the blue light therapy idea, this was her response: 

Q: OK, now tell me about your amazing idea. What sparked it?

 A: So, the first thing is my mom always gets ear infections. And she tries to use essential oils, but they never work, so she has to go back to antibiotics, which is frustrating. So during COVID, we were using UV light on groceries and things, and I learned that UV light is actually dangerous for your skin. So, I looked for another alternative, which turned out to be blue light. That gave me the idea.

I thought about using blue light to treat mid-ear infections using earmuffs first, and I went from there to thinking about using image machine learning and actual headphones. Finally, I decided on using audio machine learning because it's so much less expensive and because it can detect infection more accurately than image machine learning.

What an inspiration! 

"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," said Karina Chavez, senior vice president, and strategy officer at 3M. "Congratulations to this year's Top Young Scientist, Leanne Fan, and all the finalists. Your dedication, ingenuity, and innovative spirit inspire us all."