During a five-week research trip to Argentina last summer, Rena Abdurehman learned about the prevalence of a bacterial disease called leptospirosis in the water reservoirs throughout the country. This summer, she is going back to Argentina to do something about it.
Abdurehman, a senior in biochemistry, and cellular and molecular biology, received a Fulbright Award to study the use of aquatic duckweed as a robust, low-cost means of wastewater purification in Argentina. She will look at whether the plant could be effective in reducing the prevalence of leptospirosis.
“Humans can contract leptospirosis through direct contact with infected animals and through using or consuming infected water,” Abdurehman says. “It is thought to be more prevalent in rural parts of the country, but there have been recent reports of outbreaks in the large, metropolitan province of Buenos Aires, as well as surrounding areas. Implementing a low-cost means of water purification, such as duckweed, throughout the country will be extremely beneficial.”
In addition to her research, Abdurehman plans on volunteering with underprivileged children in rural areas of the country and conducting language-exchange forums to help locals improve their English while she improves her Spanish. She also wants to shadow healthcare professionals and learn about the differences between practice in Argentina and the United States for her career path in the healthcare field.
“I hope to be able to accomplish a variety of things while on my Fulbright fellowship, including complete my research project and leave tangible means of implementing my findings throughout the country,” Abdurehman says. “But overall, I hope to be a good example of what American citizens are like by improving cultural understanding between these two great nations.”
When Abdurehman first started college, she thought excelling in the classroom was the only way to further her education. She soon found out the environment of a university is a major factor in educational development.
“Thanks to the welcoming environment at UT, I was able to establish connections and networks that have furthered my educational endeavors and allowed me to gain more knowledge and experience that I had ever thought possible,” Abdurehman says. “I never came to college thinking I’d be awarded a nationally competitive scholarship or that I would have the experiences I have had during my college career. UT has incredible faculty who work towards advancing the lives of their students. I feel immensely lucky to have been able to work with these amazing people.”