Fish bone research wins Louisville Water science fair award

Using fish bones to remove metals from water is the focus of research that won the Louisville Water Company Award earlier this month at the Louisville Regional Science & Engineering Fair (LRSEF).

The winner was Josie Dunn, a middle schooler at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School, who received the $300 prize included with the award.

“Winning the Water Company Award was very empowering,” Josie said. “At first, I could not believe I won it, and then it sank in that it was real. I feel very grateful to the Water Company for sponsoring this award. Not a lot of organizations take time to recognize young people for doing good things.”

Josie’s research, “Metal Remediation Using Fish Bones,” is based on “the principle that fish bones contain fish collagen, a protein that has an ability to adsorb and remove positively charged ions like metals,” said Dr. Eric Zhu, Louisville Water Manager of Research & Development and a judge at the science fair.

Former Louisville Water Vice President Steve Hubbs joined him on the LRSEF judging panel, which reviewed 17 projects for the Louisville Water Award and determined that Josie’s work deserved it “for the overall high quality in her research design, data analysis, and presentation as well as excellent understanding of water science and treatment,” Dr. Zhu said.

He has volunteered as a judge for local and state science fairs for more than 15 years because he finds it “very rewarding to have an opportunity to make a positive impact to the lives of some very bright young people.”

“As an ambassador for the water profession,” Dr. Zhu added, “hopefully I help our industry in recruiting some young talents by encouraging them to continue pursuing their interests in water.” 

According to Josie’s science teacher, Fred Whittaker, “Science Fair is surely about science, but it is also about so much more, especially in middle school. It helps so many students to begin to discern and own the many strengths of character and mind which define who they are. Organizations which take the time to support this process are participating in a vital component of education and do so in ways which powerfully transcend what could be accomplished in a normal classroom.”

Whittaker added that the award  “helps to generate the inertia students need to believe in themselves and dream big as they begin to look into their futures.”

“Being recognized helped me to see that I really do have the ability to become a great scientist one day,” Josie said. “It helps me to know that what I am doing, which is being concerned about water and water quality, really does matter and so do my efforts.”