Josie Ford represents Vermont at SJWP.

Ford Attends Prestigious Water Science Competition

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Thursday June 09, 2016

Josie Ford, a sophomore at South Burlington High School (SBHS), has been named the state winner of the 2016 Stockholm Junior Water Prize (SJWP) competition. Selected for her project titled “The Effect of Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI)on Bacteria in Lake Water,” Ford will represent Vermont at the national competition, June 18, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Started in 1997, the SJWP is considered the most prestigious award for water related science, both nationally and internationally. The prize was developed to model the adult Stockholm Water Prize, which has been compared to the Nobel Prize for water research. The prize strives to: encourage enthusiasm in today’s youth regarding water issues, build an international community of young scientists bonded together for the water environment, raise public awareness about the future of water resources, and develop and ensure future leadership in the water quality community by attracting the best and brightest young people into the water sector field. The New England Water Environment Association (NEWEA) is the organizer of the Vermont SJWP competition.

According to Ford, her research essentially tested UV light sterilization as a method of water sanitation for human use. She explains, “I collected water samples from Lake Champlain and treated them in glass bottles atop aluminum foil inside an ultraviolet light box for various lengths of time. I used tryptic soy agar petri dishes to count the number of bacterial colonies in the treated water and compare to the untreated controls.” Ford says the result of her research is that “UVGI is an effective method of annihilating bacteria.” Ford relates that this information can be easily applied to real world issues, “Undeveloped countries with lack of access to clean drinking water could use a filtration system with a UV component to make contaminated water potable.”

“The state winner’s study was very timely and relevant to issues facing the water quality community,” said Mary Barry, NEWEA Executive Director. “As a professional association of water quality experts, we are extremely proud to send Josie Ford to the national competition.”

Ford will be competing in North Carolina against other young researchers from across the country for the opportunity to represent the United States at the international competition, which will take place in Stockholm, Sweden, this August. She says, “I’m looking forward to meeting the other state winners and seeing what they have researched.”  

The sophomore says she was encouraged to enter the SJWP after being awarded a silver medal at the Vermont State Science and Math fair this March at Norwich University, where she also received a special award from the American Meteorological Society and recognition from the Green Mountain Water Association. Although it was an individually conducted research project, Ford says she would like to thank her SBHS research biology teacher, Nathaniel Moore, who supervised and helped her along the way. She also worked with Douglas Johnson, Ph.D., a microbiology professor at UVM, who assisted in the design of the experiment.

Ford says she enjoys the sciences because “it allows you to think outside the box . . .  you can (potentially) make a discovery that could impact people’s lives. It’s all about pushing the limits instead of just reciting information from a textbook.”

When not immersed in the sciences, you can find Ford on the field, either playing field hockey or lacrosse. She also participates in indoor track. This summer, she will be attending the educational program MedQuest at the University of Vermont, because, as she puts it, “I’m interested in the sciences or the medical field because I like helping people.”