We are thrilled to announce the two winners of RTK Environmental Group’s semi-annual nationwide scholarship contest that supports students who plan to pursue careers in science.

scholarship winner
Nicholas Bulthuis

Nicholas Bulthuis, an undergraduate student at Loyola University Chicago, won first prize – a $1,000 scholarship – and Dylan Lukas McCloskey, a high school senior in Liberty, Missouri, won second prize – a $500 scholarship – in our competition.

We hold our contest to assist students studying environmental science, biology, engineering and related physical sciences. Such students make up the majority of the college graduates who become the foremost experts in environmental testing.

In his essay, Bulthuis wrote that he expected to find an ideal setting to observe the connection between humans and the world around them when he began studying biology in Chicago and living just a block from Lake Michigan. But what he discovered was vastly different from the harmonious relationship he’d anticipated.

“(W)hat I experienced in my first year was far from the fascinating science experiment I expected. It was a poignant mess. Soggy plastic bags coated train stations. Fast food cups clogged street gutters. Ducks picked carefully amongst weeds of candy wrappers, searching for a meal below the filth. What I saw was surely the whirlpool I expected, but one that was in the process of drowning all life, not keeping it afloat.”

His biology studies would deepen his understanding of ecological issues. It was just a matter of asking the right questions, he explained.

“What about mold enables it to spread so quickly? How does the quality of a soil impact the health of those who consume its produce?” he wrote.

Bulthuis chose a neuroscience minor – not traditionally seen as an environmental discipline – because “I believe that any program undertaken with a certain mindset can be an environmental one. It is an awareness of the cycle that exists between humanity and nature and a willingness to explore it head-on that lies at the heart of environmentalism.”

He plans to continue his studies in a “neuroscience-based doctoral program.”

“I have already learned of many toxins that harm neural development (asbestos and lead, for example), and I would like to research these effects in detail,” he wrote.

RTK scholarship winner
Dylan McCloskey

The winner of the second prize, Dylan Lukas McCloskey, wrote about his avid involvement in several activities at Liberty North High School, including the Environmental Science Club, which he founded and has served as President and Vice President.

“I personally designed and initiated the project where we planted Asclepius, a Missouri native plant, in front of the high school,” he wrote. “As an environmentalist one of my proudest accomplishments is I have been instrumental in converting many Liberty High School faculty members and students into environmentally friendly recyclers.”

The school now recycles tons of paper and other materials each year, he wrote.

McCloskey plans to earn an Environmental Science or Environmental Engineer’s degree to “launch a career that helps me to help others on a much larger scale.”

In his other activities, he has gained leadership skills as a member of the Liberty North Student Council’s executive council and public speaking as a Religious Education Instructor at Saint James Catholic Church. He also has had opportunities to help the disadvantaged volunteering at Saint Mary’s Food Kitchen and Harvester’s Food Bank.

“These are the people I would strive to help most through quality of life innovations,” he wrote.

We congratulate both winners and wish them success as they continue to pursue their careers and goals.

Past exposure to lead may be to blame for over 400,000 deaths in the United States every year (The Lancet Public Health.)

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