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New York High School Students Win U.S. Stockholm Junior Water Prize, Will Represent the U.S. in Inte

Thursday, August 3, 2017   (0 Comments)
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ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The Water Environment Federation (WEF) proudly announces that Rachel Chang and Ryan Thorpe, both of Manhasset, N.Y., have won the 2017 U.S. Stockholm Junior Water Prize (SJWP), the nation’s most prestigious youth competition for water-related research.

With a project to detect and purify water contaminated by bacteria, Chang and Thorpe won $10,000 and an all-expenses paid trip to Stockholm to represent the United States at the international competition in late August.

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.

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. Chang and Thorpe 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 scientific approach used was excellent and allowed Chang and Thorpe to develop high-quality, reproducible data,” said Jeannette Brown, chair of the SJWP Review Committee. “The process they developed is simple and rapid and can be used in both developed and developing countries to ensure safe drinking water. This was an outstanding project.”

The two U.S. runners-up were Ana Humphrey of Alexandria, Va., and Apoorv Khandelhal of Sammamish, Wash., who each received $1,000. Luca Barcelo of Greenwich, Conn., received the Bjorn von Euler Innovation in Water Scholarship Award from Xylem Inc.

“WEF is very proud to shine a spotlight on some of our country’s brightest high school students, who impress us all with their innovative projects that focus on protecting our precious water resources,” said Eileen O’Neill, WEF Executive
Director. “These students give us great confidence in the future of water science and research.”

In the U.S., WEF and its Member Associations organize the regional, state, and national competitions with support from Xylem Inc., who also sponsors the international competition.

For more information on the Stockholm Junior Water Prize, click here For a list of state winners, click here.


About WEF

The Water Environment Federation (WEF) is a not-for-profit technical and educational organization of 33,000 individual members and 75 affiliated Member Associations representing water quality professionals around the world. Since 1928,
WEF and its members have protected public health and the environment. As a global water sector leader, our mission is to connect water professionals; enrich the expertise of water professionals; increase the awareness of the impact and value of water; and
provide a platform for water sector innovation. To learn more, visit

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