San Antonio 13-year-old named one of nation’s top STEM students

Joanna Sohn is a Top 30 finalist for Broadcom MASTERS, a national middle school competition

Joanna Sohn, a 13-year old STEM student from San Antonio has been named one of the most promising middle school STEM students in the country. (KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – An eighth-grader at a San Antonio middle school has been named a Top 30 finalist in a premier national STEM competition.

Joanna Sohn, a student at Keystone School, was named a finalist for Broadcom MASTERS, a program that encourages middle school students to translate their interests into a passion for STEM, according to a press release.

“This year’s 30 Broadcom MASTERS finalists represent young scientists and engineers from every region of the US. Along with thousands of students who competed in the 2020 Broadcom MASTERS, they persevered in the face of many complex challenges brought on by the worldwide pandemic," Paula Golden, President of Broadcom Foundation said. "To their credit, they stayed engaged in STEM in order to pursue their dreams and ambitions. We look forward to an inspiring competition with our finalists this fall.”

Sohn’s work with small roundworms and how certain probiotics might help after an infection caught the eyes of judges and began last year.

Her project, "The Effect of Probiotics and Metformin on C. elegans after Treatment in a Hypoxia Chamber: Year II” found that some probiotics helped the worms after an infection, but others were harmful. This year, Joanna wondered if probiotics might help prevent or even treat a condition known as ischemic heart disease.

Finalists for the competition were selected by a panel of distinguished scientists and engineers from 3,476 applicants in 42 states and Puerto Rico and projects covered multiple disciplines of science, including environmental and earth science, electrical and mechanical engineering, microbiology, physics, bioengineering, computer science and software engineering.

Joanna said she hopes one day to become a doctor.

“I have been a patient many times for my asthma, eczema and severe allergies, and I would like to be able to help others in a similar situation,” she said.

All finalists receive a $500 cash award and will participate in a virtual competition, encompassing multiple team challenges, where they will compete for additional awards.

“During these unprecedented times we are living in, science is more important than ever,” said Maya Ajmera, President and CEO of the Society for Science & the Public and Publisher of Science News. “These 30 finalists are scientific and engineering trailblazers. Our future is in good hands.”

Outside of her STEM work, Sohn has many other interests.

“I most enjoy playing the flute,” Joanna said. She also dances ballet, and likes figure skating, gymnastics, volleyball, tennis and swimming.

About the Author:

Ben Spicer is a digital journalist who works the early morning shift for KSAT.