New York Students Win International SJWP

October 26, 2017

Featured

Bacteria detection and filtration systems earn Rachel Chang and Ryan Thorpe first place

From left, Ryan Thorpe and Rachel Chang, two students from New York, hold the 2017 Stockholm Junior Water Prize award presented by Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden. Photo courtesy of Jonas Borg, Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).

From left, Ryan Thorpe and Rachel Chang, two students from New York, hold the 2017 Stockholm Junior Water Prize award presented by Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden. Photo courtesy of Jonas Borg, Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).

Rachel Chang and Ryan Thorpe dedicated their research to finding a way to protect people around the world from waterborne diseases. Their hard work paid off when they were announced as the international winners of the 2017 Stockholm Junior Water Prize.

The team from Manhasset (N.Y.) High School created both a graphene-based biosensor capable of detecting low levels of bacteria in less than 1 second and a filtration process to eliminate the bacteria. The biosensor converts bacterial respiratory products into a current to detect the presence of E. coli, salmonella, shigella, and cholera. The filter uses hydrogen peroxide and sodium hydroxide to generate hydroxyl radicals that eliminate organic material.

“The winners used fundamental science and an eloquent way to address pathogenic bacteria in drinking water,” said Victoria Dyring, chair of the Stockholm Junior Water Prize jury. “The project has the potential to revolutionize the future of water quality. The winners displayed exceptional intelligence, enthusiasm, and passion for water and human health.”

SIWI chairman Peter Forssman (left) and Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden (right) talk to Thorpe and Chang who won the 2017 SJWP for their development of a biosensor to detect and filter to remove E.coli from water. Photo courtesy of Borg, SIWI.

SIWI chairman Peter Forssman (left) and Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden (right) talk to Thorpe and Chang, who won the 2017 SJWP for their development of a biosensor to detect and remove E.coli bacteria from water. Photo courtesy of Borg, SIWI.

Their paper, “A Novel Approach to Rapidly and Sensitively Detect and Purify Water Contaminated with Shigella, E. coli, Salmonella, and Cholera,” describes the team’s efforts to develop a holistic detection and purification solution. During testing, the biosensor was capable of detecting one colony-forming unit of the four bacterial contaminants in 1 second. And the filter successfully purified the water in a safe and affordable manner. Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden presented Chang and Thorpe with the grand prize, which included $15,000.

“WEF is extremely proud of Rachel and Ryan, who have impressed us with their intelligence and interest in protecting our precious water resources,” said Eileen O’Neill, Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) executive director. “All of the students in this competition give us great confidence in the future of water science and research.”

A team of students from Bangladesh, from left, Aniruddah Chowdhury, Arnab Chakraborty, and Rituraj Das Gupta received the Diploma of Excellence for their research into removing dyes from textile effluent. Photo courtesy of Borg, SIWI.

A team of students from Bangladesh, from left, Aniruddah Chowdhury, Arnab Chakraborty, and Rituraj Das Gupta, received the Diploma of Excellence for their research into removing dyes from textile effluent. Photo courtesy of Borg, SIWI.

A team of students from Bangladesh received the Diploma of Excellence. Aniruddah Chowdhury, Arnab Chakraborty, and Rituraj Das Gupta researched more efficient ways to remove dyes from textile-industry effluent using a composite of titanium dioxide and cheap, locally sourced chemicals. The team received $3000 in addition to the diploma for their project, “Reinvention of Photocatalysis Using Doped TiO2 in Industrial Grey Water Treatment.”

SJWP brings together bright young scientists from around the world. This year, students from 33 countries competed.

The Stockholm International Water Institute organizes and hosts the international SJWP competition during World Water Week, which began this year on Aug. 28. Xylem Inc. (White Plains, N.Y.) sponsors the competition. WEF and its Member Associations organize the national, state, and regional competitions with support from Xylem Inc.

— Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights

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