Maria Elena Grimmett has done extensive work with water contaminants and how they can be removed. She has also been published in the Journal of Environmental Equality, gotten first place in mathematics in the 2012 Broadcom MASTERS competition, and because of her contribution to science, has had a planet named after her.
Did we mention she’s fourteen?
“I live next to a golf course and I always saw them spray pesticides on the lawn,” she said. “I wondered if these contaminants could possibly get in the water table because naturally Florida has a shallow water table.”
The answer, she discovered, was yes. Maria Elena wanted to know more, but challenges occurred.
She needed a super-sensitive test for pharmaceutical contaminants at parts-per-billion concentrations. She tried to get into local research labs. But she was denied entry because of federal labor laws that stated she couldn’t enter a lab until she was 16. She didn’t give up.
Maria Elena attended water and other scientific conventions and eventually met a scientist from the Scripps Research Institute, who told her about ELISA tests that use antibodies and color change to identify a substance. That breakthrough allowed her to test pharmaceuticals and successfully finish her seventh-grade project. As one experiment builds on the other, Maria Elena’s constant research paid off.
In eighth grade, she discovered something that was an unpublished result: MN250, a Purolite hypercrosslinked adsorbent, has a high adsorption capacity for sulfamethazine and minimal desorption in distilled water. That means it could be a promising adsorbent for sulfamethazine removal from contaminated groundwater.