Shanza - A Journey Begins with One Idea

Hello fellow scientists! My name is Shanza Sami, I’m from Iowa City, Iowa, and this is my blog on the process of selecting a final pick for an issue to address, seeking solutions, as well as reflecting on my journey with the 3M Young Scientist Challenge so far.

It was of utmost importance that I devoted the time, resources, and research into a topic that I was truly passionate about. This is why I came up with the following criteria to make my final pick: 

1) An issue that I had experienced or seen first-hand.

2) An issue that affects a large magnitude of people.

3) An issue that I would be able to produce a feasible, implementable solution to. 

Ultimately, I knew that air pollution was the route I wanted to take, after my personal experience of being diagnosed with pneumonia and struggling to breathe. I decided that I wanted to explore this topic by addressing ambient air pollution – an issue with less solutions on the market – through looking into one of the largest contributors of ambient air pollution: transportation. I looked into the current technology, known as catalytic converters, used to convert gases that come out of gas-powered vehicles to be less harmful – even then, the gas content of this output is still extremely harmful for the environment and human health. I was shocked to find that this mechanism was invented in 1973, so for nearly 50 years, this technology hasn’t been refined or further advanced to produce cleaner gases. I was inspired to create an extension to the catalytic converter to convert, filter, and purify the gas output. 

The 3M Young Scientist Challenge has provided a multitude of opportunities to allow us to further explore these innovations, including the access to consult with a 3M scientist through a summer mentorship process. My 3M Mentor, Dr. Patrick Zimmerman, has been monumental in my success throughout this challenge – providing important insight on challenges I could face, potential questions I should consider as I engineer my prototype, and guiding me through the scientific process to keep me on track. 

I feel incredibly proud of the progress I have made with my prototype. My research can truly create a large, positive impact on the world. My goal is to have a first prototype engineered, tested, and refined by the Final Event in October. I know that my innovation is extremely complex and multifaceted, but if executed correctly, can improve an innumerable amount of lives. This is Shanza Sami, signing off from Iowa City, Iowa.