Helping to Commercialize
Sustainable Technology and Processes

Nurturing a Career in BioScience

Nurturing a Career in BioScience

At 14, Naima Raza is already well on her way to a potential career in environmental science.

The Sarnia, Ontario student, who enters Grade 9 at Northern Collegiate Institute this fall, is hoping to extend a winning streak in science fair competitions that led to a gold medal in the junior division at the Canada Wide Science Fair held in Toronto in May.

Following up on her previous silver award win at the national competition, Naima struck gold with her entry titled The NEWspaper Fuel: Enhancing Cellulosic Ethanol Production. Through researching the topic, she says she became more comfortable in undertaking four months of work on the project.

Naima RazaNaima Raza. Sarnia, Ontario student

“This project involved the creation of cellulosic ethanol out of newspaper, and improving the production process by pretreating the newspaper before converting it into ethanol. I tested the organosolv process, which includes adding ethylene glycol, and the oxidative delignification, which includes adding hydrogen peroxide, pretreatment processes. To the best of my knowledge, these two pretreatment methods have not been performed on newspaper before.”

Widespread public interest in issues such as global warming has stimulated her interest in environmental science. “Humans and the environment work reciprocatively - whatever we do that affects the environment affects us in return. Unfortunately, in the last few decades we have depleted the earth's natural resources, and are facing dangerous consequences as a result. If this problem is left unattended, the state of earth and humans can only decline. Therefore, it is a priority to contribute towards solving this issue.”

Encouraged by her father Samar, a mechanical engineer at Lanxess, and mother Shiba, an occupational therapist, Naima completes a large part of her science fair projects at home. Her parents immigrated to Canada from Pakistan before Naima was born.

She is planning to dedicate some of her summer vacation to working on a new project. The process of selecting a topic is typically a challenge. Ultimately it requires reading various magazines articles and visiting websites on interesting themes. After finding a few topics of interest, she starts background reading and builds awareness of what scientists are doing in the field by reading scientific journals. At this point, she selects a topic and then a specific question according to the practicality and originality of the project. 

In the future, Naima hopes to have the opportunity to interact with and learn from the vast array of environmental expertise present in the Sarnia-Lambton region.  “Interacting with industry and institutional contacts will be a great opportunity for me, since it provides exposure to active research and science in the community. It hope to possibly be offered opportunities to work on projects of my interest and even perhaps try to solve actual scientific problems in industry in Sarnia-Lambton - this would be beneficial to both industry and myself. I hope to potentially develop this project into my next science fair project. Alternatively, I hope to have the opportunity of having a mentorship with a scientist specialized in my area of interest to develop the next project. Any opportunity to work in a laboratory, to use scientific equipment/materials, or simply any suggestions or guidance would be appreciated as well."   

Although she has a variety of interests, Naima is seriously considering a science-related career path. “I'm very much interested in chemistry and biology and their applications in environmental science. In the future, I aspire to become a researcher at a university.”

The Sustainable Chemistry Alliance is a not-for-profit organization established in 2008 to promote growth and prosperity by fostering and supporting innovation, development, commercialization and related business activities and projects in the area of green and sustainable chemistry. SCA is supported by the Bioindustrial Innovation Centre, a Centre of Excellence for Commercialization of Research with funding from the Government of Canada. www.suschemalliance.ca

Summer 2011 - SusChemAlliance - Page 4
Summer 2011 - SusChemAlliance - Page 4