Could This 18-Year-Old Cure Cystic Fibrosis? Meet The Most Inspiring UK Teenager Ever

  • Marie Claire is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy.
  • Sarah Sobka was recently named UK Young Scientist Of The Year for her research into cystic fibrosis treatments AND she's inspiring girls to be more confident through the Always #LikeAGirl campaign...

    Is there anything this girl can’t do? The incredibly inspirational Sarah Sobka was named this year’s winner of the National Science and Engineering Competition for her research into new treatments for cystic fibrosis. If that’s not enough, she also recently sat on the expert panel at the Always #LikeAGirl Confidence Summit in London, encouraging young girls to be more confident in themselves.

    Did we mention Sarah was just 17 when she was named UK Young Scientist Of The Year? The competition was held in March and she beat 2,000 other entries to win the prestigious prize. Her project focused on a drug calleg Lubiprostone, currently used to treat IBS in women, looking at how it might be used to treat cystic fibrosis.

    Cystic fibrosis is a genetic condition that causes the lungs to become clogged with mucus, making it hard to breathe, and has a median age of death of just 28 in the UK. There’s currently no cure and treatments that do have limited success rates are extremely expensive.

    When Sarah learned that the University of Sheffield was doing a large research paper examining Lubiprostone, she got in touch with the project leader who allowed her to work on part of their research. Sarah was looking a particular pathway of the drug in a lot of detail, to aid their understanding of the drug as a whole.

    Sarah says, ‘I owe a lot of thanks to my project supervisor, Dr Robson at the University of Sheffield, as she was a strong role model of a female scientist who has excelled in the field of research and in what is a traditionally male-dominated field. The UK has one of the largest gender gaps in the field of science, so to see a successful female scientist has really inspired me to follow my own dream of combining a career as a clinician and researcher.’

    Sarah has just completed A-Levels in Biology, Chemistry, Maths and Arabic and is hoping to start studying medicine at university in September.

    She explains, ‘I have Libyan roots and in 2011 I was able to see refugee camps on the Libyan border with Tunisia. Seeing volunteer doctors and healthcare professionals from around the globe working with large organisations such as MSF and the Red Crescent really highlighted the humanitarian nature of medicine to me, which is what inspired me to pursue it in the first place.’

    Sarah isn’t the only one inspiring us all to work harder. Tacita Small, the HR director at Ministry Of Sound, gave us her top 5 career tips for getting ahead. Watch the video here:

    Sarah Sobka blogs at

    Photo credit: Big Bang Fair/John Sanders/Rex Features

    Reading now