CAMDENTON, Mo. — The water your dentist sprays in your mouth could be susceptible to bacterial contamination, but Camdenton student Kelli Alford and her research advisor Christopher Reeves have earned an award for a paper on how to stop it.

Missouri American Water last week announced that Alford and Reeves both won $500 for Alford’s essay submission to the Missouri Region Junior Science and Engineering for Humanity Symposium (JSEHS). Missouri American Water, a subsidiary of American Water (NYSE: AWK), is the largest investor-owned water utility in the state.

Alford’s essay, titled “Application of UV-C Illuminated Side Glow Fiber Optic Cable for Bacterial Inhibition within Dental Unit Waterlines,” examined the use of ultraviolet light to prevent the growth of potentially harmful bacteria in the water lines used in dentist’s offices. The study found that a particular type of ultraviolet light can decrease the growth of such bacteria in comparison to a control. 

“I really appreciate the uniqueness of Alford’s essay, because the safety of dental water lines is not something many people think about,” said Missouri American Water Director of Water Quality and Environmental Compliance Tim Ganz, who judged the submitted essays on behalf of the company. “The essays we judged were all very good, and it was difficult to choose a winner, but in the end we decided that Alford’s work in particular stood out.

“At Missouri American Water, we enjoy taking part in the JSEHS every year. This is a fantastic program that grows and nurtures young scientists, and these young scientists will become the water leaders of tomorrow.”

Alford and Reeves were honored for their work during a ceremony on Tuesday, April 17 at Camdenton High School.