U.S. Navy Awards $1M to UMES Researcher to Tackle Biofilm Issue

By Daniela Prizont-Cado.

PRINCESS ANNE, Md.– The U.S. Navy awarded a $1 million grant to a researcher at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore to tackle one of their most costly problems––biofilm formation, or what’s known as ‘fouling.’

The ‘U.S. Navy Minority Serving Institution Grant’ was given to Dr. Victoria Volkis, a professor of chemistry and the director of UMES’ Master of Science program, and students from underrepresented minorities in STEM, to find a solution to the biofilm formation that’s often seen at the bottom of ships.

Biofilm essentially is when microorganisms like bacteria, attach to a surface in a moist environment and begin to reproduce a sticky-like substance.

“The damage is more than just the boat, and if you think about the cost of this damage, it’s not just the cost of scrapping down and clean[ing] and repair[ing] the boat but also the more this boat will agglomerate, the more its coal will coercively damage it, and the more fuel this boat or ship will consume,” Dr. Volkis explained.

According to Dr. Volkis, these damages are roughly millions of dollars a year– not including permanent damages. She said biofilm also poses an environmental threat as it could kill many sea animals (such as fish, crabs and oysters), and in turn, be toxic to those who unknowingly consume it.

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