NKU students win poster competition at World Environmental & Water Resources Congress

For immediate release…
Monday – June 3, 2013

- Northern Kentucky University Biological Sciences students Stefania Guglielmi and Alexus Rice won first place at the World Environmental & Water Resources Congress Student Poster Competition last month. The competition highlighted their research examining the occurrence of cyanobacteria (blue green algae) blooms in the Greater Cincinnati area. These algae are potentially toxic and allergenic.

Guglielmi, a junior environmental sciences major, and Rice, a sophomore biology major, competed mainly against graduate students from colleges and universities across the world.

The 2013 World Environmental & Water Resources Congress: Showcasing the Future (http://ascelibrary.org/doi/book/10.1061/9780784412947) was held at the Duke Energy Center May 19-23 in Cincinnati. Organized by the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Environmental Water Resources Institute, the annual conference is an international gathering of environmental and water resources industry and educational professionals and students.

Guglielmi's and Rice’s research, done in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency, examines cyanobacterial blooms at ponds near four highly populated areas in northern Kentucky and Cincinnati. Some cyanobacterial bloom species produce harmful toxins that threaten the environment and human health. Reports of these blooms have dramatically increased in the Midwest recently.

The research identified several species of cyanobacterial blooms, which are being cultured and analyzed for toxin production and for their potential as allergens at the U.S. EPA in Cincinnati, and at the University of Cincinnati Medical School. The research (http://ascelibrary.org/doi/10.1061/9780784412947.004) was guided by faculty mentor NKU Biological Sciences Professor Miriam Steinitz Kannan.

In addition to winning first place, the women's research was published in a book version of the conference proceedings.

“When I first came into college, I hadn't really thought about being a researcher,” Rice said. “This has been a great experience, and now I really want to keep challenging myself. It's been very motivating.”

Guglielmi, too, said the experience boosted her personal academic expectations and self-confidence. “I moved here from Italy 10 years ago, and being a foreign student, I didn't think I had the same chances to succeed as everyone else,” she added. “But the professors at NKU helped me believe in myself. This has taught me to never be afraid of a challenge. It’s been hard, but it has definitely been worth the work."

Their research began in October 2012 and will continue until at least August 2013. Go online to find more about NKU's Department of Biological Sciences.

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