Zoe Weissman – Courtesy

By Jill Fox

After a rigorous STEM competition, Zoe Weissman won a $10,000 award for her project to find an alternative to opioids.

Weissman, 14, participated in the summer research institute at American Heritage School in Plantation, where students created science projects ranging from chemistry to engineering.

Her project was “Testing Phytochemicals for Antinocicepetive Properties in Both Female and Male Drosophila melanogaster to Discover a Natural Painkiller and Reduce Bias in the Drug Industry.”

In June, Weissman applied to the nation’s premier Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) middle school competition. Three months later, 30 finalists were selected from almost 3,500 applicants in the nation.

For the first time, the competition took place virtually over a period of six days. The finalists were both judged on their research projects and participated in online team challenges.

“We had five different challenges and nightly activities, like a virtual escape room and a talent show,” she said, “Overall, it was a great experience.”

Weissman won the $10,000 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Award for Health Advancement, which recognizes the student whose work and performance shows the most promise in health-related fields and demonstrates an understanding of the many social factors that affect health.

“I was in shock– I still am,” she said, “I couldn’t believe that I actually won.”

Each finalist’s school will also receive $1,000 from the Broadcom MASTERS program to benefit their STEM initiatives.

Weissman intends to use the $10,000 for school. This summer, she plans to do another research project involving biochemistry or computer science, and she hopes to enter the international science fair.

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Author Profile

Jill Fox
Jill Fox
Jill Fox is an Emmy Award-winning writer and producer. She has worked in public relations and television for over 20 years. Fox lives in Parkland with her husband and their two children.