Washington State High School Student Wins 2020 US Stockholm Junior Water Prize

Zoe Gotthold will represent the U.S. in international contest with oil spill remediation project

Washington State High School Student Wins 2020 US Stockholm Junior Water Prize

The Water Environment Federation (WEF) recently announced that Zoe Gotthold is the winner of the 2020 U.S. Stockholm Junior Water Prize (SJWP), the nation’s most prestigious youth competition for water-related research.

Gotthold, a student at Richland High School in Richland, Washington, developed prototypes of devices that promote oil flocculation at the surface and increase the efficacy of traditional oil spill remediation techniques. She won $10,000 and will represent the United States at the international competition in August.

Students from 41 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico competed in the national finals during a virtual event on June 20. 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.

The two U.S. runners-up were Emily Tianshi of California and Emma Price of Missouri, who each received $1,000. Ishraq Haque of South Carolina received the Bjorn von Euler Innovation in Water Scholarship Award from Xylem Inc. Beatrice Youd of Wisconsin received the James L. Condon Recognition for Environmental Stewardship.

“The passion, creativity and skill on display during the Stockholm Junior Water Prize competition is both impressive and inspiring,” says Jackie Jarrell, WEF President. “WEF is proud to support these students as they continue to identify and explore solutions to the challenges facing our global water environment.”

Gotthold’s winning project, “P.E.N.G.U.I.N.S: Promoting Emulsion Nullification Greenly Using Innovative Nucleation Surfaces (A Simple Solution to Oil Spill Emulsions),” noted that one of the most dangerous components of oil spills is the emulsion that forms between spilled oil and surrounding seawater. It can persist for years and is difficult to remediate. Gotthold identified substances that speed up the separation of those emulsions and used those properties to develop her prototypes.

Gotthold is exploring six different applications of her research, which she says can be used to limit the dangers posed by oil spill emulsions without the harmful environmental impacts caused by chemical surfactants. 

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.


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