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Engineering student wins Udall scholarship for environmental studies


BLACKSBURG, Va., April 17, 2006 – Sherri M. Cook of Winchester, Va., a sophomore in the Via Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech and a University Honors Program student, is one of 80 students chosen from throughout the U.S. to receive a Morris K. Udall Undergraduate Scholarship for the 2006-2007 academic year.

The Udall Scholarship and Excellence in National Environmental Policy Foundation selected the scholars from a pool of 445 students nominated by 224 colleges and universities. The foundation was established by Congress in 1992 to honor the late Congressman Morris K. Udall, who, while serving in the House of Representatives for three decades, championed environmental legislation and the rights of Native Americans and Native Alaskans.

Cook, the ninth Virginia Tech student to be named a Udall Scholar, was recognized by the foundation for her outstanding academic achievements and her aspirations as a future environmental engineer. “My goal is to encourage waste reduction, greater conservation of energy, and more efficient and productive uses of our waste,” she said.

One way she would like to fulfill that goal is by designing landfills and wastewater treatment plants that will collect methane gas produced by decomposing waste and use it as an alternative energy source. Cook already has begun work in this field as a member of a research team led by John Novak, the Prillaman Professor of Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech. The team is studying the use of anaerobic digestion of sewage sludge as a means of disposing of waste while generating energy.

Each Udall scholar will receive up to $5,000 for the academic year and also will attend a national conference in Tucson, Ariz., to receive the awards and to meet with national policy makers and community leaders in environmental fields and tribal health care and governance.

“Attending the conference, where I’ll have the opportunity to meet people who are dedicated to making a difference in environmental policy and improvements, was one of my major motivations in applying for the scholarship,” Cook said.

At Virginia Tech, Cook is active in a number of student organizations dedicated to improving academics and the environment, including the Burruss Hall Recycling Program, Society of Women Engineers, Student Engineers’ Council, American Society of Civil Engineers, Society of Environmentally Focused Students, Council for Environmental Sustainability, and the Main Campbell Honors Community.

During the university’s winter break, Cook traveled to Mississippi with the Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society to help repair homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina. She was initiated as a member of the society this spring semester.

In addition to the Udall Scholarship, Cook has received the Virginia Tech Alumni Presidential/Honors Scholarship and the Civil Engineering Class of 1958 Scholarship. In 2005 she received the German Club Rising Sophomore Leadership Award.

Cook was co-valedictorian of the Class of 2004 at James Wood High School in Winchester. During her senior year there, she participated in a dual enrollment program with Lord Fairfax Community College. She plans to complete her bachelor’s degree in civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech in 2008 and to pursue a master’s degree in environmental engineering.

The College of Engineering at Virginia Tech is internationally recognized for its excellence in 14 engineering disciplines and computer science. The college’s 5,500 undergraduates benefit from an innovative curriculum that provides a “hands-on, minds-on” approach to engineering education, complementing classroom instruction with two unique design-and-build facilities and a strong Cooperative Education Program. With more than 50 research centers and numerous laboratories, the college offers its 1,800 graduate students opportunities in advanced fields of study such as biomedical engineering, state-of-the-art microelectronics, and nanotechnology.