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
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