It was almost like it was meant to be, says Carli Koenig.

Last semester, the environmental health and safety major saw information posted on the departmental billboard seeking applicants for the 2022 National Sanitation Foundation Scholar Award. But with finals week just ahead, Koenig didn’t feel like she’d have enough time to get through the application process.

“Then Dr. Boman got an email saying the deadline had been extended five more days,” says Koenig. “I thought, ‘This is a sign.’”

After submitting her proposal for a research project on new and emerging onsite wastewater technologies, she was informed she had been selected for the award, which goes to only one student in the United States each year. The award includes $3,500 toward the recipient’s research project.

“I’m working on my final paper, which has to be submitted by May 27,” she says. “I’m comparing regulations at the state and local levels to see how it’s relevant to NSF.”

In June, she’ll present her research at the National Environmental Health Association Annual Education Conference in Spokane, Wash. The NSF award will also cover all of her travel expenses.

Koenig transferred to Missouri Southern’s Environmental Health & Safety program after receiving her associate degree from St. Charles Community College.

“When she came here, she immediately said she wanted to do an internship,” says Dr. Teresa Boman, associate professor of biology and environmental health. “She worked on a sewershed project with the state of Missouri. We’ve been collecting wastewater samples from a manhole at Missouri Southern since last spring.

“We can see the COVID viral load coming off-campus and analyze them for variants, and contribute to the data set for the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services. Carli’s water-based research fit in nicely with the NSF research program.”

The summer conference will not only mark Koenig’s first time speaking in front of a large crowd, but it will also be her first time on a plane.

“I’ve never been that far away from home before,” the first-generation college student says. “But I’m super appreciative of the opportunity to make connections, network and get involved in the industry.”

This fall, she’ll continue her studies in environmental planning and management at the University of Illinois-Springfield. She says she’s excited for what’s ahead and glad she made the decision to come to MSSU.

“The chair of the Biology Department at St. Charles Community College told me about the program at Missouri Southern, and I was able to transfer without any issues. Right away, I knew I had found a home here and have made a lot of friends in the program. I feel kind of like the school picked me.”