Noelani Rupp and Bambi Zhuang

Rupp and Zhuang Selected for Genius Olympiad

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Thursday April 12, 2018

South Burlington High School (SBHS) sophomores Noelani Rupp and Bambi Zhuang were honored at the 2018 Vermont STEM Fair by being selected to attend the Genius Olympiad this June at the State University of New York Oswego, New York. The international high school project competition is founded and organized by the Terra Science and Education and hosts projects in five general disciplines with an environmental focus. Both Rupp and Zhuang’s projects earned the recognition of judges.

Zhuang’s project is titled “Is the Pistia Stratiotes (Water Cabbage) Effective in the Removal of Phosphorus from Water?” She said, “Since freshman year, when I took AP Environmental Science, I knew I was passionate about the preservation of our planet. One day a special speaker mentioned the phosphorus problem in Lake Champlain and it stuck with me, because when it came to brainstorming an idea, I knew I wanted to find an alternative solution to treating phosphorus laden waters.” Zhuang notes that she initially planned on studying phosphate accumulating organisms, and adds, “Luckily, the staff of the University of Vermont, especially Dr. Ross and Dr. Armstrong, helped me obtain the cabbages and the rest of the story was fate.”  

Zhuang shared, “Winning this honor definitely reassured me that people do care about research like this and that I could make a difference.” Regarding the New York competition, she says, “I look forward to being able to talk to other knowledgeable people about alternative solutions to water treatment. I think it is incredibly important that we look out for our planet and, by doing this project, I hope to spread awareness and the new research in this area is very underrepresented.” 

Rupp’s project is titled, “What are the effects of ligninolytic fungi on hydrocarbons in motor oil?” She explains, “I chose to research and experiment in this area because I believe mycoremediation, environmental cleanup using fungus, is a promising and useful tool for environmental cleanup, especially in the case of ecosystems influenced by oil spills.”

Rupp shares her excitement about attending the competition in Oswego, not only to share her findings, “but to learn about the myriad of solutions and creations students have created from around the world. I look forward to being part of such a celebration of innovation.”

Zhuang agrees, “I am super excited to participate in another science fair because, even though it was a bit stressful, the Vermont STEM Fair was one of the most fantastic experiences of my life.”