By Jill Fox
Last summer, while most students were on a break, Parkland 13-year-old, Zoe Weissman, spent her time trying to find an alternative to opioids.
Weissman, now 14, participated in the summer research institute at American Heritage School in Plantation, where students created science projects ranging from chemistry to engineering.
After much research, she came up with Testing Phytochemicals for Antinocicepetive Properties in Both Female and Male Drosophila melanogaster to Discover a Natural Painkiller and Reduce Bias in the Drug Industry.
“I wanted to find a potential alternative to opioids that could treat males and females equally,” said Zoe, who lives in Parkland Golf & Country Club, with her mother, Heather, Vice President of The Friendship Journey, her father, Arthur, a business owner, her younger sister, Ava, and her dog, Leia.
In her extensive research, Zoe said she found that men and women often perceive pain differently, and clinical trials for new drugs tended to use men more frequently than women.
As a result, more pain medicines are geared towards men, which Zoe felt was unfair to women. In her project, she wanted to show that with plant-based chemicals and help both sexes.
Heather said Zoe spent all last year working so hard on her science research project and, as a first-place winner in Broward County, was supposed to go to the state finals in March, which was canceled due to COVID-19.
“At the end of the seven-week program, I was just getting started,” said Zoe, who would spend her afternoons in the lab after school.
She said the program gave her a head start– more time to plan everything out and do a more complex project.
“I had so many trials with thousands of flies,” she said.
In June, Zoe decided to apply to the nation’s premier Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) middle school competition. Now, she is one of 30 finalists in the first-ever Virtual Broadcom MASTERS, starting on October 16, where students will participate in a rigorous competition to test their critical thinking, communication, and creativity in each of the STEM areas.
Of the 30 national finalists eligible for over $100,000 in awards, four were from Florida cities: Indialantic, Orlando, Melbourne, and Parkland.
Although she’s only in ninth grade, she has specific goals. Zoe said her dream school is Columbia, and ever since she was little, she has wanted to be a doctor.
Zoe shared that she’s also in the process of getting published in a journal for young scientists– The Journal of Emerging Investigators.
“I want to be a pediatric surgeon and help save children’s lives.”
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- 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.
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