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Monday, October 19, 2009

"Wastewater to Fuel" Project Earns Switzer Fellowship and Recognition for Catherine Hare

Catherine Hare of Rohnert Park has been awarded the prestigious Switzer Environmental Fellowship for her research on a local "Wastewater to Fuel" project conducted with Biology Professor Michael Cohen.

Hare's study focuses on the capacity of aquatic vegetation to remove or "scrub" excess nutrients and other pollutants from treated wastewater and utilization of the harvested material as biofuel. She initiated the project in Cohen's laboratory as an undergraduate in Spring 2006 and advanced to a graduate program in Fall 2007.

The project has since gained national recognition with three awards, most recently winning a "Pearson Sustainable Solutions Award", and has garnered over $200,000 in funding from a variety of sources, including the California Energy Commission, Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the City of Santa Rosa.

Hare is the fifth Switzer fellow from the SSU Department of Biology in the past nine years. The fellowship program has been active for 22 years and has funded students from universities such as Harvard, Brown, Yale, MIT, UC Berkeley, UCLA, as well as a few CSU campuses.

The fellowship is granted to students who, like Hare, are "innovators, leaders, problem-solvers, focused on tangible results ... with strong leadership, communication and critical thinking skills."
Along with a $15,000 stipend comes lifelong membership in the Switzer Network, which provides awardees with training, career coaching and access to other Switzer Foundation grant programs.

Beyond her role as a researcher, Hare is also a devoted educator. Cohen says "she has superbly carried out her duties as a laboratory instructor for several majors and non-majors Biology courses."

Furthermore, she has been "an extraordinary mentor" to six of the nearly twenty undergraduates who have served in Cohen's laboratory since he joined SSU in Fall 2005.
Hare has presented her research to diverse audiences, ranging from local groups, such as the American Business Women's Association Wine Country Chapter, to scientific conferences, including a recent meeting of the Pacific Division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco.

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