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Erica Wu Holmdel High School
Mar 29, 2018

HHS Senior Invited to Prestigious Science Conference

Erica Wu Holmdel High School

Holmdel High School student Erica Wu has been invited to present her research at the American Junior Academy of Science Conference (AJAS) in Austin, Texas. Ms. Wu, a senior at Holmdel, originally began her project in her junior year as part of her work in the high school’s Honors Advanced Research (HAR) class. Her project, titled Sewer Electricity: A Microbial Fuel Cell Powered by Sludge, focused on generating electricity from sewage sludge. In addition to earning high marks for her research in the class, Ms. Wu then presented her work at the New Jersey Academy of Sciences symposium at Kean University, where she won first place in the Environmental Science division. Her outstanding showing at the state event resulted in her invitation to be one of the New Jersey delegates to the AJAS conference in Austin, Texas, which took place from February 14 to 18.

Along with the presentation of her project, Ms. Wu will also tour the University of Texas facilities and have breakfast with scientists. She will attend a lecture titled The International Space Station: A Laboratory in Space by Dr. Ellen Ochoa, a veteran astronaut and the 11th director of the Johnson Space Center. She will also hear from Dr. Cori Bargmann, a neurobiologist and geneticist and president of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, in her lecture The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative: Accelerating Science.

The conference will be an experience for the graduating senior who explains she is “excited to meet and learn from other student delegates and professional, highly-regarded scientists. I would love to hear about projects other students my age accomplished and the great discoveries of our older counterparts. For instance, the planned lectures seem fascinating and a great opportunity, especially as one of the speakers is a neurobiologist, and I have a long-standing interest in neuroscience and biology, and its applications to society.”

Though humbled by the accolades her project has received, Ms. Wu admits she is especially proud that she was even nominated, considering that her project was almost entirely conducted within the confines of her school classroom as part of her Honors Advanced Research course. Her teacher, Dr. Josephine Blaha, who supervised and guided Ms. Wu on the project, is equally impressed. Ms. Blaha explains, “Erica was able to generate sustained voltage from, let’s say, “sewage,” to use a kind word. It was rather smelly and entailed a lot of hard work, but she was successful. Most impressive was that this project was done completely in-house, and independently, with no outside help, except for the sludge provided by the Two Rivers Water Reclamation Authority.”

Ms. Wu is grateful for the opportunities she has had at Holmdel High School and in the Honors Advanced Research class. She feels very fortunate to have such supportive peers, teachers, administrators, and community members, all of whom gave her valuable feedback as she presented her project in its various stages. She says, “My interactions with a variety of audiences have built my self-confidence, presentation skills, and critical thinking abilities as I answer questions on the spot.”  Those in the Holmdel schools and community who have worked with Ms. Wu, and Holmdel students like her, are proud of her accomplishments and prouder still of helping all students innovate and elevate as they steer a toward a more promising future.