Local Students Win Mini Research Grants To Fund Environmental Science Project Proposals

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From the left: Joanne Lee, Qian Wei, Zoe Chan, and Shaan Merchant are pictured with science research teacher Nicole Spinelli (not pictured: Justin Tao).
(Photo from the Great Neck Public School District)

The South Asian American Women’s Alliance (SAAWA) recently announced the SAAWA Annual Mini Research Grant Award winners in the field of earth and environmental science for 2022-2023. The mini grants were created to increase interest in our environment.
The SAAWA seeks to encourage and promote leadership and innovation among students in STEM fields to help build tomorrow’s workforce among the community. The SAAWA Mini Research Grant for Environmental Issues is one of the many ways the SAAWA challenges, motivates and encourages students.

“One of the greatest challenges facing the next generation is the degradation of our environment,” writes the SAAWA on their website. “We at the SAAWA strongly feel that the solution to this problem will come from this generation of scientists and engineers, and it is our duty to encourage the brightest of them to pursue careers in these fields.”

Research project proposals are submitted to SAAWA from middle and high school students. Funding is intended to offset the cost of materials and computer software expenses pertaining to a new research project in the environmental field. The amount of the award is $200.

SAAWA received 48 proposals from 22 schools and selected 16 student winners. Three students out of the 16 are from Great Neck and one is from Port Washington.
• Justin Tao and Quan Wei (Grade 11) Great Neck South High School
• Joanne Lee and Zoe Chan (Grade 11) Great Neck South High School
• Shaan Merchant (Grade 11) Great Neck South High School
• Audrey Ren (Grade 10) Paul D. Schreiber High School

Research partners Justin Tao and Qian Wei are developing a novel composite material for breaking down microplastics in water. Research partners Zoe Chan and Joanne Lee are developing a novel composite material that leverages human hair’s adsorbent properties to aid in oil spill management. Shaan Merchant is working independently to develop a drone adaptation that is capable of detecting and classifying plant diseases in an agricultural setting. Their science research teacher is Nicole Spinelli.

The project proposals must meet the following requirement to be considered for the mini grant.
• Must be pursuing a new environmental-based research project in Fall 2022 and must have a science research teacher as a mentor.
• Must participate in the SAAWA science competition.
•Topics of the research project must be in earth and environmental science.
Topics for the project proposal can be any topic in the environmental field. The SAAWA suggests topics like water management, deforestation, the impact of climate change, renewable energy, food security, air and noise pollution, and human health.
Mini-grant recipients will present their work at the SAAWA Science Fair later this school year. To learn more about the South Asian American Women’s Alliance, whose mission is to encourage, promote leadership and innovation among students in STEM fields to help build tomorrow’s workforce among the community, please visit https://www.saawa.org/

—Information provided by the
Great Neck Public School District
with additional reporting by Julie Prisco

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