BANGOR, Maine — Rebecca Ye will begin her college career in the fall at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, but she’ll travel to the Gateway City later this week.
Not for student orientation or class registration, though.
The recent Bangor High School graduate will go up against 49 others for the right to represent the United States in the international Stockholm Junior Water Prize competition. The U.S. winner, to be decided on June 20, will travel later this year to Stockholm, Sweden, to compete against other countries.
Ye’s research paper, “Nanoparticle-amplified immunobiosensor enables excellent sensitivity in rapid detection of viable E. coli O157:H7,” was the result of several months of lab work conducted with the assistance of graduate students at the University of Maine.
“I already had been studying bacteria in food for another project, but my teacher thought it could easily translate to testing water,” Ye, 17, said recently at the high school. “E. coli is a big problem.”
Scientists already can test water samples for bacteria such as E. coli, but Ye’s process is much more rapid. When she explains that process, she sounds less like a high school student and more like a doctoral researcher. Most people would be left scratching their heads.
“She’s being modest,” said Cary James, her chemistry teacher at Bangor High School. “There is tremendous practical potential for the work she has done.”
James, who has taught chemistry for 11 years at Bangor High, is no stranger to pushing his students to explore academic interests beyond his chemistry lab walls. In fact, last year, one of James’ students, Anne Marie Lausier, also competed for Maine in the Stockholm Junior Water Prize competition, the world’s most prestigious youth award for a water-related science project.
Earlier this year, James himself was given a Siemens Foundation Award for top achievement in Advanced Placement science. He was the only Maine teacher to be honored.
For Ye, whether she wins the Stockholm Junior Water Prize or not, she relishes the chance to travel to St. Louis, where she’ll spend at least the next four years of her academic life. She actually grew up there, where her father, a pathology doctor, did his residency. The school? The Washington University School of Medicine.
“He’s thrilled that I’m going there,” Ye said.
She plans to major in pre-med and likely will follow in her dad’s footsteps and become a doctor. If so, she already has some significant laboratory research to draw from.
Information about the Stockholm Junior Water Prize is available online at http://www.wef.org/PublicInformation/page_sjwp.aspx?id=146