From left: PVCC’s winning student team: Stephen Haze, Candice Tomlinson, and Maya Fraser-Butler Credit: Courtesy Piedmont Virginia Community College

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                          

June 22, 2015 

Contact: Leigh-Anne Lawrence
Director, Marketing & Media Relations

PVCC student team named one of top 10 winners in national science competition

(Charlottesville, Va.) – A student team at Piedmont Virginia Community College has been named one of the top 10 winners of the 2015 National Science Foundation Community College Innovation Challenge (NSF CCIC).

Held in spring 2015, the NSF CCIC challenged community college students from across the nation to propose innovative STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) solutions to perplexing, real-world problems. Students were invited to identify key problems and propose innovative solutions in areas with potential for solving some of America’s most daunting challenges: big data; infrastructure security; sustainability (including water, food, energy and environment); and broadening participation in STEM. Participating student teams submitted projects ranging from engineering algae to improve fuel production to developing mobile medicine dispensing units for disaster relief.

Teams submitted their entries in January to NSF, who selected several finalists to attend its “Innovation Boot Camp,” which was held from June 15 to 18 in Washington, D.C. The PVCC student team, comprised of science major Maya Fraser-Butler; science major Stephen Hazen; and biotechnology major Candice Tomlinson, all of Charlottesville, placed as a finalist, earning the team the opportunity to take part in the Innovation Boot Camp, where PVCC was selected as one of top 10 winning teams.

“I’m so proud of our students,” said Anne Allison, associate professor, biology, who served as the team’s faculty advisor. “Winning this competition advances their young scientific careers to the highest level.”

PVCC’s team focused its project on freshwater sustainability in Virginia. To supplement work already being

done by groups such as the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and StreamWatch, the team proposed creating a new way of measuring water health by surveying protists, the largely single-celled organisms that form the base of the food chain in aquatic ecosystems. To manage research workflow and share data with the public, the team used an emerging open-access tool called the Open Science Framework, created by the Center for Open Science. Use of this tool allows research to be shared between numerous groups and will ultimately help improve freshwater quality as researchers collaborate to find solutions for ongoing issues.    

To learn more about the CCIC competition, or view videos from community college winners, visit