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WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Sohi Sanjay Patel, a sophomore at The Woodlands College Park High School in The Woodlands, Texas, has won its Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award at the 2021 virtual Regeneron® International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). Sohi’s project proposes to provide a plant-derived, flame retardant polyurethane foam that could be used for housing insulation and other applications.

Patel’s work was motivated by the impact of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy in India when over 40 tons of methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas leaked from a pesticide plant. MIC gas is a main raw material for manufacturing polyurethane foam. Polyurethane foam is used for insulation and as a cushioning material in a wide variety of products. Patel’s work, titled “Scalable and Sustainable Synthesis of a Novel, Bio-Based Polyurethane Foam System Incorporating Industrial Byproducts and Waste,” focuses on replacing MIC with greener components for making polyurethane. In particular, she developed two novel biochemicals, using nontoxic waste products, to create a polyurethane foam more sustainably.  

“The student finalists in this year’s ISEF are applying Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) concepts in remarkable ways to help protect human health and the environment, and their projects are truly inspiring,” said EPA Science Advisor Dr. Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta. “Despite a challenging academic year, I congratulate all of this year’s finalists for their remarkable passion and enthusiasm, and I encourage them to continue to seek innovative ways to tackle complex environmental challenges.” 

EPA’s Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award provides funds for the winner to travel to EPA’s National Sustainability Design Expo. The Expo features the university and college student teams participating in EPA’s P3: People, Prosperity and the Planet program, which encourages innovative designs applying Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics concepts to address environmental challenges. 

Charlotte Michaluk, a freshman at Hopewell Valley Central High School in Pennington, New Jersey, was selected as honorable mention for her environmental engineering research project titled: “Innovative Climate Change Emissions Reduction: The Cargo Ship Flettner Rotor Centrifugal Vortex Exhaust Scrubber.” Charlotte’s project developed a novel and efficient system for reducing emissions from cargo ships.

Created and produced by the Society for Science & the Public, the virtual 2021 Regeneron ISEF showcased the innovative projects of 1,833 finalists from 64 countries, regions and territories who compete for approximately $5 million in awards and scholarships. Since 2009, EPA has participated in the ISEF by recognizing a project that demonstrates a commitment to environmental sustainability and stewardship with the EPA Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award.

“Congratulations to Sohi Sanjay Patel on winning the Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award and to Charlotte Michaluk who was selected to receive honorable mention by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at the 2021 Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair,” said Maya Ajmera, President & CEO of the Society for Science and Publisher of Science News. “The students who competed in Regeneron ISEF this year conducted their research under unique circumstances, given the current pandemic. Their dedication to conducting scientific and engineering research gives me hope for the future.”

For more information about EPA’s participation in the Regeneron ® International Science and Engineering Fair and to see past winners of the Patrick H. Hurd Award, please visit: 

More information about EPA’s People, Prosperity and the Planet Student Design Competition for Sustainability: 

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