Fulbright Scholar empowers the circular economy with algae

Photo of Bridget Price.

Photo by Shivani Jinger

Graduating from Oregon State University in 2023 with honors bachelor’s degrees in chemical engineering and bioresource research, and a chemistry minor, Bridget Price is glad to see years of planning coming to fruition.

“My uncle and grandfather are chemists, and my family has a farm in the Willamette Valley,” said Price, who has been admitted to a doctoral program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “I started getting interested in the intersection of agriculture and engineering in high school when I read about scientists in the Netherlands doing research to build a more circular economy with a focus on sustainable agriculture. It was an ‘aha!’ moment; I could incorporate my chemistry and engineering interests into agriculture to help the world.”

Along the way, Price has pursued other interests, too. She is currently co-president of the Honors College Student Association, which she joined during her first year, helping plan events for Honors College students to become engaged in the campus community. She is also involved with the Oregon State Running Club, competing nationally in cross country during her first year, and she has been a resident assistant for three years.

But perhaps Price’s greatest passion during her time at Oregon State has been research. She never stopped thinking about the research article she encountered as a high school student, which proved to be her main motivation for applying to the Fulbright US Student Program, which is administered at Oregon State by the National and Global Scholarship Advising office.

“What especially caught my interest was algal biofuels production and the algae cultivation they were doing at Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands,” Price said. “It was agricultural engineering, which I had never heard of before. I started looking into Fulbright as a way to conduct research there. Also, I’ve always wanted to see the world, experience different cultures, and meet people who think differently.”

Price is grateful to have been selected as a Fulbright Scholar finalist for a research position at WUR. Her project proposal centers on enhancing wastewater treatment systems using oxygenic photogranules, which are pellet-shaped aggregates of algae and other microorganisms.

“Normally, if you grow algae in wastewater, it can be hard to recover the biomass for its secondary usages, such as biofuel,” Price explained. “By forcing it to form these granules, you can more easily remove algae from the water. I’d look at these granules and study how to maintain them within a wastewater treatment system.”

Regardless of whether she ultimately accepts her Fulbright assignment, Price is determined to earn her doctorate in chemical engineering to further develop her research skills and experience — and to help the world, by promoting sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels.

“If Fulbright doesn’t happen yet, I’ll start my Ph.D. program later this year,” Price said. “I’m looking forward to becoming a research scientist in the biofuels industry.”

April 17, 2023