- Associated Press - Monday, March 2, 2020

BELOIT, Wis. (AP) - Pistachios, coconuts and shrimp have something unusual in common.

Each type of crushed shell has proved useful for research in Beloit Turner High School senior Beatrice Youd’s latest award-winning science project on minerals in wastewater and how to prevent harm to the environment.

Spending several hours daily over several years learning and researching hydrogeology also has helped her earn a place at Harvard University, where she will study earth and planetary science this fall.

“I’m so excited to go to Harvard. It will open a lot of opportunities for me, and I’ll be able to do a lot more research,” Youd told the Beloit Daily News.

Youd, 17, took home several first-place awards and a Society of Women Engineers Award at the Capital Science and Engineering Fair in Madison during the weekend of Feb. 14-16.

Her project is titled “Septic System Caused Phosphate Loading Prevention Analysis Via Biodegradable Filters.” She began her research in August 2019, and in May, she will attend the International Science and Engineering Fair in Anaheim, California, as a finalist.

“It’s like the science olympics,” Youd said.

Youd credits numerous teachers and family members for supporting her research efforts through the years.

Lisabeth Langer, the Gifted and Talented program coordinator at Turner High School, is one of the instructors in Youd’s corner - and has been since she was in sixth grade.

Langer said Youd first participated in a statewide science competition as a sophomore. She didn’t win, and the judges delivered “honest feedback” about her research that was tough, but useful.

“I like the story about the first science fair she went to, and she didn’t give up. It just tells you what kind of person Beatrice is,” Langer said. “She’s very humble, too.”

The Beloit Daily News previously reported in March 2019 that Youd took home the Naval Science Award at the Waukesha Colleges Science and Engineering Fair. She also took home a second place award in the chemistry/biochemistry/environmental category there.

After school hours and taking a break to recharge, Youd spends time researching every day in her at-home laboratory, which is complete with a septic system she built by herself near a washing machine in the basement.

Youd joked that it drives her parents crazy, but her entire family has supported her efforts all the way through. Her parents, Daniel Youd and Tamara Ketabgian, are both professors at Beloit College.

The sounds of music and TV shows playing in the background help her stay focused.

Classical music and upbeat tunes are a must when testing theories or writing about the results. Tedious and repetitive tasks are made fun by TV shows like “The Office” or “Parks and Recreation.”

“It takes a while to get into the zone, though,” Youd said. “You have to be in the right head space.”

Youd researched what sorts of minerals are commonly found in septic systems and then tried analyzing different items containing things like calcium or heavy metals.

Hence, the combination of all sorts of shells.

“It’s always good to keep an open mind,” Youd said.

Attending college in Cambridge, Massachusetts, won’t require too much uprooting.

Youd interned with the Waquoit Bay Summer Science School for the last two summers, where she learned more about how wildlife is affected by harmful chemicals found in fertilizers or septic systems through a process called eutrophication.

She realized she wanted to be a part of wider efforts to protect Earth’s ecosystems by researching problems and finding solutions after seeing countless animals that had washed up on shore.

“It’s like educating the younger generation about why our planet is amazing and why we should save it,” Youd said about the summer program there.

Water runoff with harmful chemicals is even affecting certain deposits of well water and parts of the Great Lakes, Youd said.

Youd said when she attends the international fair in California, she will meet students from around the world and learn about environmental issues affecting other parts of the globe.

She added student researchers often act as sounding boards for one another, which will make for a great experience.

Youd said she is excited to be study arts, music and western Armenian history at Harvard, too.

“Science and the humanities go hand-in-hand. You have to be able to write well, appreciate art and speak well to present ideas and have people listen to you to ever make it in science,” Youd said.

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