Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Science Fair Rock Star - Laura Steponavičiūtė

This is the fourth in an ongoing series highlighting some of the amazing young women participating in this year's Google Science Fair. (Here are the first, second and third posts.) Each has survived the rigorous regional rounds, and are awaiting the results of the final testing to see who will win this year's prizes. The results will be announced on September 21, 2015, and you can be sure I'll be watching!

As always, I am impressed with all the participants and their projects, but the nature of this blog is to highlight the stories of kickass women and girls, so I'm focusing on them for this series. Over the next week I will be sharing stories of many of these remarkable young women. Stay tuned!

Laura Steponavičiūtė is a remarkable young scientist with a bright future ahead of her in nano-technology, or whatever else she decides to pursue. Her mother, herself a sciences teacher, fostered a sense of curiosity and exploration in her young daughter, providing her with a wide variety of books and creative pursuits.

Recently, Laura became interested in learning more about nanotechnology, and more specifically, how these innovative nanoparticles actually interact with the environment and the various organisms they come into contact with. She was inspired to do more research when she learned that the titanium oxide nanoparticles that make sunscreen work tend to have a detrimental effect on coral reefs. As a swimmer applies sunscreen to her face, she may not realize that the minute particles that wash off are being carried away to where they can actually damage the environment they came to the ocean to enjoy.

In her research, she looked at gold nanoparticles and how they influenced the health of plants. She compared the effect these particles had on the growth of beans and algae, and how these could lead to both helpful and harmful consequences -- faster plant growth is good for crops, but terrible for fresh water in that it encourages algae blooms, which can lead to eutrophication and the death of the animal life in the water.

When asked why she wants to be a scientist, she answered, "I want to know answers to the questions that pop in my head while reading articles or discussing various topics. I want to help to improve our environment and help people. I see science as a way to do that." It's true.

For more reading, please check out the Google for Education blog post about Laura Steponavičiūtė.

Photo source: Kauno diena


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