The Water Environment Federation (WEF) announced that Rachel Chang and Ryan Thorpe, both of Manhasset, NY, have won the 2017 US Stockholm Junior Water Prize (SJWP), the nation’s most prestigious youth competition for water-related research. Students from 48 states and Puerto Rico competed in the national finals June 16-17 at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
The Stockholm Junior Water Prize aims to increase students’ interest in water issues, research and careers, as well as to raise awareness about global water challenges. The competition is open to projects focused on improving water quality, water resource management, water protection, and drinking water and wastewater treatment. With a project to detect and purify water contaminated by bacteria, Chang and Thorpe won $10,000 (USD) and an all-expenses paid trip to Stockholm to represent the US at the international competition in late August.
In their winning paper, A Novel Approach to Rapidly and Sensitively Detect and Purify Water Contaminated with Shigella, E. coli, Salmonella, and Cholera, Chang and Thorpe note that waterborne diseases cause 3.4 million deaths annually, concentrated in countries lacking sanitary water. They engineered a system to efficiently detect and purify bacterial presence in a more rapid time frame with a lower detection limit than conventional methods. Graphene was utilized to create four specific biosensors through the immobilization of specific enzymes that target analytes released during the respiratory cycles of model organisms for Salmonella, Shigella, cholera and E. coli. The system successfully detected minute levels of bacteria in a rapid time frame and purified the water of pathogens.
The two US runners-up were Ana Humphrey of Alexandria, VA and Apoorv Khandelhal of Sammamish, WA, who each received $1,000. Luca Barcelo of Greenwich, CT received the Bjorn von Euler Innovation in Water Scholarship Award from Xylem Inc. For more information on the Stockholm Junior Water Prize, click here. Click here for the full list of US winners.