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Imagine if glowing algae could help light computer monitors, light bulbs—even the screen on your cell phone. While it may sound like science fiction, Debra Gale, the first recipient of the Wicks-Street Fellowship, is conducting research that may eventually lead to such illuminating innovations.
Working with chemical engineering professor Greg Rorrer, Gale is experimenting with one-celled algae called diatoms to see if they will take up metal oxides in their shells. The oxides will give the shells special optical-electronic properties, and if the project is successful, billions of these tiny diatom shells could be used to light up an array of computerized devices.
“I am having a great experience at OSU,” said Gale, a doctoral student in chemical engineering. “I’m working on cutting-edge research, and through the project, I’ve been able to develop research skills which will help me in my career.”
Jim and Judy Wicks-Street are following Gale’s achievements from afar. For some time, the Streets have planned on leaving a generous $1 million bequest to OSU to establish the Wicks-Street Endowed Fund which will provide chemical engineering scholarships and fellowships. After Streets let OSU know of their intention, they found a way to make a smaller commitment now so that they could see the impact of their gift during their lifetimes.
“Education is a priceless gift,” said Judy Street. “Unless we step up, many worthy people will not have this opportunity.”
The Streets have strong ties to OSU—and to chemical engineering in particular. Judy Street is a 1964 OSU home economics graduate who worked in the chemical engineering department as a student. Her husband, Jim Street, is a chemical engineer who had a 28-year career with Royal Dutch Shell. In addition, Judy’s uncle is the renowned chemical engineer Charles Wicks, a leading professor at OSU for 34 years. The Streets wanted to honor him with the fund, which will carry on the Wicks name at OSU for generations to come.
As the first beneficiary of the fund, Gale feels privileged to be a part of the Wicks-Street legacy. "It means a lot to me to receive support from a family that has really deep roots in chemical engineering,” she said. “I hope to set a high standard for future fellows.”