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Student Success

UNCW senior Mary Jaskowiak ’17 won the latest BB&T Discovery Forum Series for developing an affordable, effective method for testing water quality using a substance found in laundry detergent. The project earned the $10,000 first prize in the competition for young social entrepreneurs.

Jaskowiak’s research, conducted under the supervision of UNCW biology and marine biology professor Larry Cahoon, helped her isolate optical brighteners in natural waters to detect human waste. She used the results of her research to develop the “Fecal Finders” project.

“Mary has displayed a really creative, entrepreneurial spirit in pursuing her ideas, and it’s nice to see her hard work moving toward fruition,” Cahoon said.

Brighteners in detergent have fluorescence and stick to clothing. Because wastewater from washing machines combines with raw household sewage, the presence of the detergent additive in a natural body of water means that human waste is also present.

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Original story by Tricia Vance. Published in March 24, 2017.