Young Scholar Explains Microalgae Science to President Obama

Achievement date: 
2015
Outcome/accomplishment: 

President Obama got a face-to-face explanation of using microalgae for wastewater treatment from a young high-school scholar studying at the Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Re-inventing the Nation's Urban Water Infrastructure (ReNUWIt), an NSF-funded center with headquarters at Stanford University. Sophia Sánchez-Maes was one of 36 students chosen nationwide to present their work to the President at the White House.

Impact/benefits: 

Participating in a Young Scholars Program provides motivated high school students with invaluable experience and insights into academic research, as well as mentorship and connections. Presenting Sánchez-Maes’ summer research on the national stage increased ReNUWIt’s recognition and exposure, helped develop Sophia’s communication skills and confidence, and may help inspire other high school students to pursue similar research opportunities.

Explanation/Background: 

Sánchez-Maes presented her summer research on "microalgae for wastewater treatment and energy and nutrient recovery" at the 5th Annual White House Science Fair in March 2015. As she explained to President Obama, her project helps support the use of extremophile algae to fuel an energy-positive wastewater treatment system.

The Young Scholars Program supports ReNUWIt’s goal to inspire high school students to consider water-related science and engineering fields. Sophia, a senior at Mayfield High School in Las Cruces, NM, worked in Professor Nirmala Khandan’s and Professor Shuguang Deng’s lab at ReNUWIt partner New Mexico State University during Summer 2014 as part of the ReNUWIt ERC's Young Scholars Program.