Shaelagh Stephan, a student at Martensville High School (MHS), won a Bronze Medal at the Canada Wide Science Fair (CWSF) in Ottawa earlier this year.
Her achievement was recognized in the Saskatchewan provincial Legislature on Monday, November 5. Martensville-Warman MLA Nancy Heppner drew attention to the MHS student’s CWSF award and offered her congratulations.
Stephan’s project at the national science competition involved finding new ways of using plant waste by turning it into sustainable plastic with bacteria you might find your backyard.
The Bronze Medal of Excellence in the CWSF Intermediate category for Resources comes with a $1,000 monetary prize. Stephan also earned a $1,000 Entrance Scholarship to Western University for her project.
“In nature, some bacteria digest the glucose found in plants and produce a chemical that can be converted into biodegradable plastic,” said Stephan, who was in Grade 9 at the time she entered her project in the Canada-wide competition. “I identified and isolated these bacteria and explored ways to break down plants into simple sugars to feed the bacteria.”
Stephan, who also enjoys sports and plays piano, plans on attending university to become an environmental engineer. She placed third at Sanofi Biogeneius Competition last year, tied for third at this years’ regional competition and won an outdoors award related to her project.
“I was inspired to do this project because I am concerned about how conventional plastics are damaging the environment,” said Stephan. “Future work of this project will focus on the optimization of bacterial hydrolysis and the use of hydrolysate in fermentation for PHA production by indigenous bacteria.
“My advice to other kids is to get involved with this type of work and get excited about it too. What really helped me was my mentor that guided me and the lab equipment and materials I used.”
In her statement to the Legislative Assembly, Heppner said she was amazed with Stephan’s project.
“I was happy to be able to know the difference between a rock and a leaf when I was taking biology, so I’m fairly impressed,” said Heppner. “Shaelagh has a history of success at various science fairs, earning high honours at various regional and national science competitions.
“I ask this House to help me congratulate Shaelagh on her great success and wish her the best in the future.”