MIT names minor planet after Harrisite

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After placing second in the 2013 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, senior Yarim Lee received the honor of having a minor planet in the galaxy named after her.

Yarim had been researching Alzheimer’s disease to determine its causes and lay the pavement for a future drug she plans on creating. One year later, Yarim actually created the drug candidate, modifying it after much trial and error until it successfully stopped the symptoms of Alzheimer’s in vitro.

The unique award was presented to her by the Lincoln Lab of MIT. Yarim had known that a planet would bear her name, but it was confirmed in mid-October of this year. The planet is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Yarim also received a monetary prize of $1,500 for her win in the competition.

When asked about her experiment, Yarim stated that she “took a chemical approach to tackle the causes of Alzheimer’s Disease in its preliminary stages.” She worked with an already proposed hypothesis suggesting that Alzheimer’s disease was caused by the buildup of amyloid plaques. Yarim conducted tests to determine what interactions were causing the plaques to stick together. From there, she began synthesizing her drug candidate.

“The previous attempts to combat this disease had been of a more biological nature, in terms of enzymes, but I tested it on a more chemical level,” she said.

Her experiments were successful in a test tube but now need to be tested to ensure the same results  in human beings.

Yarim attributes her success in the Intel ISEF competition to her family and mentors, who aren’t surprised at the depth of her success.

“It is evident from the minute that she is spoken to that she loves what she does,” said science teacher Sarah Oberlander. “She continually tries to bridge the gap between science and the humanities…[Yarim]will help others to the best of her ability in the field that she’s chosen.”