Pollution Prevention Institute announces winners of statewide student competition

NYSP2I recognizes top graduate and undergraduate teams during University at Buffalo event

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Nancy J. Parisi

RIT team members (from left) Yunjing Jiao, Meng Wang and Jiayu Fang—each fourth-year packaging science students—share their project with New York State Pollution Prevention Institute Director Charles Ruffing during the sixth-annual Research & Development student competition held at University at Buffalo on April 21.

The New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I) at Rochester Institute of Technology has announced the winners of its annual Research & Development student competition, which provides students across the state the opportunity to promote ideas to create more sustainable schools and communities.

Open to colleges and universities statewide, the sixth-annual student competition, held recently at the University at Buffalo, recognized both graduate- and undergraduate-level sustainability projects.

Teams from RIT, UB, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Syracuse University, Clarkson University and the University at Albany competed for the top prizes. In total, $7,000 was awarded.

Earning the top two graduate-level positions:

  • The Jeff Sama First Place Award, named in honor of the late, retired director of the Division of Environmental Permits and Pollution Prevention for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, went to the University at Buffalo for its project, titled “Catalytic NO Oxidation with Liquid Absorption Using Polymeric Catalysis: Sustainable and Cost-Effective NOx Control.”
  • Clarkson University placed second for its project, “Recyclable Nanosorbent for Treatment and Management of Eutrophication in Environmental Waters.”

Representing the top two undergraduate winners:

  • The Jeff Sama First Place Award was won by RPI for its project, titled “Constructed Wetland Solution for the Removal of Benzene from Stormwater.”
  • RIT finished second for its project, “Prevention of Food Waste by Dual Modified Atmosphere Packaging.

“I was very impressed with the projects described by both the undergraduate and graduate teams this year,” said Charles Ruffing, director of NYSP2I. “The solutions to our most complex environmental challenges will come in large part from students who are studying these issues. Based on their work this year, these students have put forth innovative approaches to air, water quality and food waste issues, and in the process acquired skills and perspectives that will be valuable to themselves, their future employers and the communities where they will live.”

“I congratulate this year’s winners for their impressive work on these projects that promote sustainability and have the potential to help New York businesses use more environmentally friendly practices, while increasing their profits,” said Basil Seggos, commissioner of the state DEC. “These students have proven to be savvy future environmental leaders, and their work that was honored this year showcases smart initiatives and practices that are good for both the environment and the economy.”

As part of its Research & Development Program, NYSP2I challenged teams of full-time students enrolled at any institute of higher education in New York state to choose from the following topics: water quality and conservation, food source reduction, and air quality monitoring and improvement. Teams were required to design innovative solutions to reduce the environmental footprint within the topic area of their choosing.

This year’s competition marked the first time in six years that the event was held on the University of Buffalo’s campus inside its Student Center, which included an awards luncheon ceremony.

“The University at Buffalo is dedicated to conducting interdisciplinary scientific discovery and technological innovation through various initiatives and in particular via our university-wide, interdisciplinary Research and Education in energy, Environment and Water (RENEW) Institute,” said Amit Goyal, RENEW director and Empire Innovation professor. “It is a pleasure to partner with other schools and state agencies to promote and encourage research leaders of tomorrow to pursue these goals.

“Our faculty are involved in applying technology and interdisciplinary approaches to develop environmentally sustainable approaches to industrial applications through effective public-private partnership,” he added.

In all, eight student teams from six schools displayed their projects and competed for prizes at the competition, which is traditionally held on or around Earth Day, April 22.

The teams received up to $1,250 for project materials when their project proposals were accepted to the student competition last fall. Student teams exhibited their projects and gave oral presentations to a panel of judges. The free event was open to the public.

The top two schools received trophies. Each first-place team received $2,500 to share among team members and its advisor; the second-place school received $1,000. The prize money was made possible through donations by sponsors, including Baldwin Richardson Foods, Wegmans Food Markets Inc., O-AT-KA Milk Products, Potsdam Specialty Paper Inc., Markin Tubing, Sydor Optics, NOCO Energy Corp., Perry’s Ice Cream, Counterparts Chemistry and Harbec. Additional funding for the competition was provided by the state DEC.