Ryan Aguirre and Kemberlin Hernandez-Veliz have been studying the effect of bacteria on the degradation of certain types of plastic. The juniors are partners on a project they have been pursuing in the science research program at Huntington High School.
The title of the teenager’s research study is somewhat intimidating: The Effect of Bacillus Sphaericus and Staphylococcus Epidermidis of Bacteria on the Efficiency of Degrading LDPE Plastic and HDPE Plastic. But while the eyes of some might glaze over as they read it, Mr. Aguirre and Ms. Hernandez know the subject inside and out.
“LDPE and HDPE are two of the seven major types of plastic used in regular everyday products,” according to a project abstract. “Bacillus Sphaericus and Staphylococcus Epidermidis are two bacteria of many different types that have been proven to successfully degrade plastic. This project will test if each of these two types of bacteria are more efficient in degrading one type of plastic than the other. This is greatly important in today’s world as plastic pollution is something that has affected animals and humans alike.”
The research partners are both fine students. Mr. Aquirre is a Natural Helper, assisting classmates as they work through personal issues, performs with the high school band and is a member of the drama club, yearbook club and Key Club.
“The science research program is great because it’s a very independent class and students who take it are able to do projects on topics that they are very passionate about,” Mr. Aguirre said. “I really enjoy science research because I’ve met so many great people through it and I’m able to create my own projects on stuff I love to learn about and I feel a sense of accomplishment after every project I complete.”
Ms. Hernandez-Veliz is also a Natural Helper and a Key Club member. She volunteers at Huntington High School, performs with high school orchestra, plays on the Blue Devil varsity soccer team and coaches youth basketball and soccer in the community.
The two teenagers said marine life consumes a good amount of plastic, which is difficult to digest and often lodges in the digestive track resulting in death. “Hopefully this experiment will be successful and cut down and decrease the rate of plastic pollution by finding an efficient and eco-friendly way to degrade plastic,” their abstract concludes.
(Huntington senior Robert Jean-Gilles contributed reporting to this article.)