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Graduate students take first place in NYS pollution prevention competition

Mahmoud Ahmadi, Alana Olear, Samar Fawaz and Mohsen Ghaffari (not pictured) won first place in the NYSP2I R&D Student Competition. Photo by The Onion Studio, Inc.

Published April 30, 2015

A team of UB students won first place at the 2014-2015 New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I) R&D Student Competition.

Mahmoud Ahmadi and Samar Fawaz, both graduate students in chemical and biological engineering, and Alanna Olear, undergraduate student and Mohsen Ghaffari, graduate student, both in environmental engineering, captured first place for retrieving precious metal from waste effluent at Precious Plate Inc. in Niagara Falls, NY. Their project focuses on replacement of the traditional chemical treatment process to remove metals by using microbe-based separation techniques where metal chelation is the main process to capture and recover metals.

Samar Fawaz, a student in the laboratory of Blaine Pfeifer, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering, was interviewed by local news station 10 [watch the video].

Dubbed "Greenovate NYS" the competiton aims to make New York State more sustainable for workers, the public, the environment and the economy.

Open to colleges and universities throughout the state, the fourth-annual student competition, held on Earth Day, recognizes both graduate and undergraduate level sustainability projects.

“Every year we become more impressed by the innovative ideas that both the graduate and undergraduate teams discover to help make their campuses and local communities more sustainable and environmental friendly,” said Anahita Williamson, director of NYSP2I.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens delivered welcoming remarks at the event.

“Today’s event highlights the work that NYSP2I is doing to showcase the work of tomorrow’s leaders, scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs,” said Martens. “These students will face the challenges of industrial sustainability, competitive markets, resource conservation, and financial bottom lines. Meeting these challenges will mark a brighter future for the Earth Days of tomorrow.”

The competition challenges undergraduate and/or graduate level student teams from across New York State to research, develop, and design solutions to real world environmental problems. It promotes creative thinking, problem solving, team work, and collaboration across disciplines. 

Student teams present their projects to environmental experts, gain insight from established professionals, and receive recognition by potential future employers.

This year’s competition was held on RPI’s campus inside the Center for Biotechnology & Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS) at Rensselaer.