Deepika Kurup may only be a sophomore at Nashua (N.H.) High School South but she already has an impressive track record for research. In 2013, Kurup was runner-up in the U.S. Stockholm Junior Water Prize (SJWP). For the 2014 competition, she continued working on her project and it paid off.
In June, Kurup joined other bright young scientists from around the United States in Herndon, Va., to compete for the 2014 U.S. SJWP title. And this year, the New Hampshire student earned first place for her project, “A Novel Photocatalytic Pervious Composite for Degrading Organics and Inactivating Bacteria in Wastewater.” Her project was selected as first place out of a total of 48 winning projects from across the U.S., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Kurup’s research integrates an enhanced photocatalytic advanced oxidation process with filtration using pervious composites. For the research, Kurup fabricated two pervious composite filters — one doped with silver — for wastewater treatment.
The plain filter containing cement and sand showed a 20% reduction in total coliform bacteria and the photocatalytic filter containing silver showed a 98% reduction. Subsequent exposure of filtered water in beakers containing the composite discs showed complete inactivation of total coliform bacteria. The plain composite filters produced 100% inactivation of the bacteria in 3 hours and the silver photocatalytic composite filters produced 100% inactivation of the bacteria in 15 minutes.
“This project opens numerous possibilities for sustainable, economically viable, and effective wastewater purification,” according to Kurup’s research report.
The 2014 U.S. SJWP title adds to Kurup’s other achievements, including receiving U.S. President’s Environmental Youth Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, first place in Environmental Science division at the 2014 and 2013 New Hampshire Science and Engineering Exposition, and recognition as “America’s Top Young Scientist” in 2012 after winning the grand prize in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge.
“The water sector is an ever-evolving profession that continually seeks new and innovative approaches to sustainable water management,” said Mohamed F. Dahab, chair of the SJWP Review Committee. “We were very impressed with the high caliber of research and creativity presented by Miss Kurup and all of the young men and women who participated in this year’s competition.”
Kurup received $10,000 and a trip to Stockholm, where she will represent the U.S. at the international SJWP competition during World Water Week, Aug. 31 through Sept. 5. The international winner will receive $15,000 presented during a royal ceremony by the prize’s patron, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden.
Bluyé DeMessie from Mason, Ohio, and Zachary Loeb from Melbourne, Fla., earned the runnerup spots. They each received $1000. The team of Jack Andraka, from Crownsville, Md., and Chloe Diggs from Glen Burnie, Md., won the Bjorn von Euler Innovation in Water Scholarship Award and received $1000.
WEF and its Member Associations organize the U.S. national, state, and regional SJWP competitions with support from Xylem Inc. (White Plains, N.Y.). Xylem also sponsors the international competition and the Bjorn von Euler award.
— Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights