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NYWEA awards $12,000 Environmental Career Scholarship to Eric Smith of Youngstown


Fri, Jul 17th 2020 02:10 pm

The New York Water Environment Association (NYWEA), a statewide nonprofit organization of water quality management professionals, announced it has awarded a $12,000 Environmental Career Scholarship to Eric Smith to attend the University at Buffalo. 

Smith, 18, son of Jennifer and David Smith of Youngstown, is enrolled in the engineering and applied science bachelor’s degree program in the chemical engineering major at UB, beginning in the fall 2020 semester.

In June, he earned his high school diploma with highest distinction from Lewiston-Porter Senior High School as salutatorian of his class and earned numerous accolades, including the President’s Education Award for Outstanding Academic Excellence. He was also captain of the varsity swim team, president of concert band, and vice president of the Class of 2020, ambassador and a junior staff member for the Hugh O’Brian Leadership Conference (HOBY), a Leadership Youth of Niagara County (LYNC) graduate and president of Key Club. He has also been an active volunteer in his community and earned the HOBY Presidential Service Award. 

Smith was introduced to water quality research through his participation in the International Student Science Fair (ISSF). As a member of a team of three students, his research project explored the use of mushroom mycelium for the absorption and abatement of motor oil pollution. The team aimed to develop a device that could float in water and be used to absorb oil and/or other contaminants in rivers and lakes. Smith and his team won the ISSF Excellence in Presentation Award.

In March 2019, he was again selected as a member of a three-person team for the ISSF in Singapore. The experiment in Singapore studied the use of green, leafy vegetables as a live root system for the abatement of nitrates and orthophosphates in bodies of water. Smith and his team researched the issue of eutrophication, the overgrowth of algal blooms caused by the nitrate and phosphate entering bodies of water through agricultural runoff. They determined that a device containing a live root system, nitrates and ortho-phosphates can be absorbed from bodies of water and broken down, to decrease the size of algal blooms.

Smith intends to continue this water quality research in college, exploring the sustainability and restoration of freshwater resources. He intends to pursue a variety of extracurricular interests at UB including the Honors Council, community service, water polo club and concert band. After completing his bachelor’s degree, Smith intends to work as a chemical engineer at an environmental company and hopes to make a difference in the field of engineering and help to preserve the environment.

“Engineering encompasses everything I am good at and enjoy, such as building, problem-solving, math and science,” Smith said. “I am interested in helping develop and design processes to provide healthy air, water and soil. In addition, I’d like to help develop green and sustainable products to help our environment.”

Since the inception of its scholarship program in 1998, NYWEA has granted over $571,000 in scholarship funding to 214 students. A total of $52,000 is being awarded this year to 10 undergraduate students through the NYWEA scholarship program. Details on all NYWEA scholarships can be found at www.nywea.org/SitePages/Scholarships


Founded in 1929 by professionals in the field of water quality as a nonprofit educational organization, NYWEA has over 2,800 members statewide and hosts several technical conferences each year for environmental engineers, scientists, public officials and others who work in water and wastewater quality management. In addition, NYWEA sponsors a scholarship program; publishes Clear Waters, a quarterly educational trade magazine; administers wastewater operator training certification; and supports humanitarian clean water projects. Headquartered in Syracuse, NYWEA has seven regional chapters, 14 college student chapters and is a Member Association of the international Water Environment Federation. For more information, visit www.nywea.org.

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