Pearl Sawhney and Minna Mohammadi, sophomores, swept the top prizes at the Iowa State Science Fair (EISEF) on March 21, the State Science and Technology Fair of Iowa (SSTFI) on March 26th and 27th, the Iowa Junior Academy of Science (IJAS) on April 16, and have placed in the top 30 presenters at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in San Jose, CA, May 14. The students have also been invited to compete at the National Environmental Science Fair, and the American Junior Academy of Science Fair in Washington D.C. in February, 2011.
Sawhney’s and Mohammadi’s project, entitled "Farm Feeding Practices: Exploring Solutions for Environmental Sustainability," examines the relationship between animal feed and water pollution. The students tested three different types of farms: confined animal feeding operations, conventional farms, and organic farms. Results demonstrated a statistically significant relationship between between conventional feeds, which contain bound phosphorous, and high levels of phosphorous in nearby waterways. Farms using organic feeding practices allow cattle to absorb more phosphorous, leading to lower levels of phosphorous downstream. The students plan to continue their research over the summer in Jefferson and nearby counties.
When asked how the students chose their topic, Sawhney said, "We wanted to find a local solution to a global problem."
"I am deeply impressed with the research conducted by Pearl Sawhney and Minna Mohammadi," commented Fairfield's Sustainability Coordinator, Scott Timm. "Their research is not only enlightening in terms of providing objective evidence of the negative effects of unsustainable farming practices; but also speaks to the dedication that today’s youth feel towards our societal and agricultural impact on the environment. Honestly, it is heartening to know that we have a generation rising to meet the challenges in front of them."
Mohammadi and Sawhney were sponsored in part by Jefferson County Farmers and Neighbors association. They received mentorship and testing materials from the USDA. Dr. Mousumi Dey was the team's primary mentor. As a result of her excellent coaching and teaching, Dr. Dey was awarded the V. O. Hasek award, a commendation from Iowa Governor, Chet Culver, and was selected to be the teacher representative for the State Science Fair Organization Board of Directors. Dr. Dennis Dey and Dr. Rajeev Sawhney provided additional mentorship.