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Mara K. Kuenen, a Ph.D. student in assistant professor Rachel Letteri’s research group, has won the 2020 Chemical Engineering DuPont Student Safety Award.

DuPont provided a gift to fund the annual award to promote safety in research labs. Students can submit a proposal for improving safety or apply for the award based on ideas that have been implemented.

Kuenen’s fellow Ph.D. student Stephanie Guthrie nominated her to the Department of Chemical Engineering Safety and Security Committee, commending Kuenen’s commitment to laboratory safety, teaching others about safe working practices — particularly with regard to polymer materials — and to communicating hazards and hazard mitigation strategies with her colleagues, including undergraduate students.

In an email to Kuenen notifying her of the award, Geoffrey M. Geise and George Prpich, faculty members on the committee that made the selection, cited Guthrie’s nomination.

Guthrie noted Kuenen’s commitment to a culture of laboratory safety, which she wrote is “based on understanding safety hazards and their mitigation — not merely on enforcement of a fixed set of rules.”

“It is clear that your efforts have made a positive impact on several of your colleagues and ChE students at UVA,” Geise and Prpich wrote to Kuenen.

The award includes a $1,000 cash prize and an invitation to speak during the department’s annual safety seminar in August, to which Kuenen has said she is happy to contribute.

“I’m honored that Stephanie took the time to nominate me,” Kuenen said. “And, I’m glad that I have contributed to the safety culture for the students in the undergrad lab.”