Kimberly Perez in a BVU science lab.
Kimberly Perez, a junior mathematics and biochemistry double major at Buena Vista University (BVU) from Brownsville, Texas, will make a presentation on her research project at the International Conference of Algal Biomass, Biofuels and Bioproducts in San Diego, Calif., in June.
The abstract of Kimberly’s project — entitled “Use of Cladophora spp. to Purify Freshwater Systems and Produce Biodiesel on a Laboratory Scale” — was also presented at the recent Iowa Academy of Science annual meeting and will be presented at BVU’s Scholars Day on April 30.
As a J. Leslie Rollins Fellow, Kimberly spent the summer of 2010 doing missionary work in Guatemala. This experience inspired Kimberly’s project. She was working in a clinic and saw much illness as a result of a lack of clean drinking water.
“I watched people walk long distances to get water, and then that water had to be boiled before anyone could drink it. I watched people drink Coke all day because water was unavailable. In order to obtain clean water, it had to be bought from stores,” says Kimberly. “It pained me that they had water sources but they were polluted and therefore unsafe to drink. Having studied particularly in the science field, I know how vital water is to life and that’s where I began my thought process to develop my research. I thought the reason underdeveloped countries didn’t clean their polluted water was because of the cost.”
Kimberly theorized that if underdeveloped countries could make money out of cleaning their water, they would be more prone to cleaning it. In addition, the citizens of that country would have ready access to clean, drinkable water. Kimberly decided to see if it was possible to clean polluted water with algae and then use the same algae to produce biodiesel.
Dr. Melinda Coogan, assistant professor of biology, has been a mentor for Kimberly throughout the course of the project, providing insights and asking questions.
“In her major, Kimberly has numerous career options, and she is taking advantage of her opportunities with BVU as she continues to investigate these options,” says Coogan. “Kimberly has an intuitive understanding of how providing basic human needs in a sustainable manner not only helps maintain healthy ecosystems, but it also contributes to a higher level of human health. Having her project accepted for presentation with the international conference in San Diego this June will allow her the opportunity to further apply critical thinking and creative problem solving skills as she discusses her project with scientists from around the globe.”
Through BVU’s Honors Program, Kimberly was able to secure funding for the crucial tests in her research.
“BVU, through its rigorous courses that I have completed and multiple opportunities to present any type of research, has helped me prepare for this opportunity,” says Kimberly. “I have gained confidence in speaking and making presentations to an audience. I am more than prepared to present my research in California.”