Cutting-Edge Science Project On Antimicrobial Copper Wins Top Honors

April 17, 2008


Missouri teen's research earns him a trip to national symposium

NEW YORK, NY - It started with a homemade rocket launcher that his grandfather helped him make in order to win the third-grade science fair. Three years later, Michael Stockwell was busy trying to research alternative food sources for the monarch butterfly.

Now the 18 year-old Tuscumbia High School senior has claimed first place in the Junior Science Engineering and Humanities Symposium (JSEHS) for his research into copper's ability to kill potentially harmful bacteria. Stockwell will present his research at the National Junior Science Engineering and Humanities Symposium being held in Orlando, FL, in April.

For his project, Stockwell replaced the door push plates in the restrooms of three local high schools with uncoated copper, brass and stainless steel plates and measured their bacterial loads. After 24 hours, each plate was swabbed to collect bacterial samples. The experiment was conducted over three days.

In addition to the "real world study," there was a lab component to Stockwell's research. He introduced E. coli and S. epidermidis bacteria to copper, brass and stainless steel to test each metal's antimicrobial properties over a given amount of time. The push plates and laboratory coupons were provided by the Copper Development Association (CDA).

The results were striking. In the school tests, significantly fewer bacteria survived on the copper and brass push plates than on the stainless steel plates. In the laboratory, more than 99 percent of the bacteria on the copper and brass were killed.

Dr. Dave Westenberg, an associate professor at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, worked with Stockwell on his research project and said of the teen, "Michael is extremely mature for his age and really knows what it takes to do the scientific research. He really has been working on groundbreaking science."

Stockwell also won top honors at the Central District Missouri Junior Academy of Science and will be presenting his research at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in May. The contestants for this event usually represent all 50 states and over 40 countries.

When not involved in scientific research, Stockwell said he keeps busy by volunteering at his local Baptist church, is a member of the National Future Farmers of America Organization, and plays baseball and basketball. He will be attending Missouri University of Science and Technology in the fall and majoring in aerospace engineering.