We are proud to announce our newest recipient of the GEM Environmental Undergraduate Scholarship Award, Abigail Pezelj.
Abigail is a Junior at Arizona State University studying Chemical Engineering and Materials Science. As a Tempe local, she is very invested in the community and loves being involved in as many ways as possible; whether it be through STEM outreach, volunteering, or engineering simple solutions to public concerns. She values STEM education because it is the way to both freedom and the future. Having an understanding of the natural world, as well as how to see complex issues and create viable solutions to them, is an invaluable skill that impacts all lives.
Her main focus is on water quality engineering, specifically the intersection between chemical engineering and microbiology. She has used her passion for the field and has channeled it into an ASU EPICS project, Selleh Lake Restoration, LLC, which creates cyanobacteria-focused gravity filtration systems using our unique blend of particles. Being the founder of this company has challenged Abigail due to the science and business skills it demands; she has had to deal with customer demands, public policy, and the process of taking a product from R&D to market.
Abigail will be using the money she receives from G.E.M. Environmental to aid in the development of her company. She is allocating the funds towards filing a patent on their design and purchasing raw material for their final-stage prototype. This will allow her company to completely scale-up the design for widespread use, without fears of their intellectual property being stolen nor a lack of building supplies. On a small scale, with the successful implementation of this project, thousands of Tempe residents will no longer be forced to live near freshwater bodies that are infiltrated with toxin-forming cyanobacteria. Local schoolchildren will have the ability to return to some of the city's iconic lakes to learn about the ecosystem, engineering, and the scientific method. In a broader sense, once the product is taken to market with help from the Biodesign Institute and SRP, millions of people around the world will have a safe, affordable method of removing cyanobacteria and Ecoli from local water sources without the use of chemicals, biocides, and invasive technology.
“With help from this scholarship, I am one step closer to achieving a life dream - running a successful company that makes an impact on many lives. Since the first day, I was given this project, to the day that I signed the paperwork for the LLC, I have been extremely passionate about engineering, having integrity throughout the R&D phase, and being a compassionate member of the community. Not only do I want to see this project through because I have invested substantial amounts of my own time, but also because my friends, family, and I are members of the community that I am seeking to serve. Being awarded this money also means a lot to me because I am so often overlooked and told that being a woman in engineering is a disadvantage. Winning this award, and the many other ones my company has won, has proven everyone wrong; my team of all women has no disadvantages, only grit.” -Abigail Pezelj
To learn more about Abigail Pezelj check out:
G.E.M. Environmental is excited to share another new addition to our monthly blog series – Science Stories. Each month, we interview a STEM scholar, student, or community member and ask them things like why they believe the STEM fields are important, how they got started in their field, to what they would do if they hit the jackpot. We hope that our new blog series will inspire, introduce a variety of fields, and create new conversations.
In honor of National Parks Week 2020, we are happy to introduce you all to Barbara Nuzzi. Barbara worked at the Ashokan Environment Education Center in Olive Bridge, NY, as the Program Director. She also worked for state and national parks, as a guide and environmental educator. Her studies were mostly in environmental stewardship. She is currently retired but she loves to be an active volunteer throughout the community, including volunteer projects with GEM!
Why do you believe that the STEM fields are important?
Our natural resources are more vulnerable than ever before, mostly due to climate change. I feel there is also a great deal of ignorance when it comes to consumption and sustainable solutions. Education in managing soil, water, air, forests are essential at this time.
How and why did you get involved in the STEM fields?
My father was my mentor, and I spent a great deal of time with him and my brother's in nature. I have always had a curious mind, and enjoyed spending time in observation of animal behavior and structures in the natural world.
Can you describe another aspect of your life or career that is influenced or enriched by the STEM fields that people would find surprising?
I don't know if this would be surprising but "Silent Spring" by Rachel Carson changed my life and the global environmental movement. Her book received great criticism when she wrote it in the 1960's, but I always felt that the science behind her findings was correct.
What inspires you in your current position/role?
Since I am now retired, I am inspired by all the younger generation that are taking up the scientific studies! We need you now more than ever!
Have you ever participated in an internship?
Yes, I participated twice with AmeriCorps and Student Conservation Association. I've always felt that it was the steppingstone to all my other endeavors. The value of the experience cannot be overstated.
What work experiences have been the most educational for you, and why?
I loved working with the archaeology teams in many different places. A subject I still find myself intrigued by.
What is something that people might be surprised to learn about you?
I am a vocalist, and love most types of music, and study guitar.
What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?
Not recently, but back in the Americorps days, our group needed to paddle out to a small island for a service project only to find this entire small island was filled with poison ivy!
You won $10 million in the lotto. What would you do?
Environmental activism and especially encourage young women to study the sciences.
For more information on our National Parks please visit www.nps.gov.