Alexa “Lexy” Dantzler, 18, of Manassas, VA, has loved science ever since the shoebox science fair days of early elementary school. She has researched numerous topics, such as wind energy, and the most effective way to rid toothbrushes of bacteria, and has found inspiration from her teachers to ask questions and follow her interests. In high school, she read about a toxic chemical known as perchloroethylene (PCE), which contaminates the air, water, and soil surrounding dry cleaning establishments. Discovering that this chemical is classified by the EPA as a “probable carcinogen” associated with liver, kidney, lung, and breast cancer, Lexy wanted to know what residue from this toxic chemical lingers in the fabric of dry cleaned clothes.
Lexy asked for help from chemists and professors across the U.S. seeking the best way to measure the chemical PCE in the fabric. Even though some experts said it was an impossible task, she believed she’d have success if she used a gas chromatography-mass spectrometer. She finally queried Dr. Paul Roepe from the Chemistry Department at Georgetown University, who responded with keen interest, invited her to his lab, paired her up with two graduate students, and helped her develop her method of detection. In September 2011, her research was published in the Journal of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. She was featured on the front page of The Washington Post and interviewed for Public Radio International’s “Living on Earth” show. She was named one of the 40 Finalists in the 2013 Intel Science Talent Search and was nominated by her peers to be the recipient of the Glen T. Seaborg Award.
In December of 2009, Lexy traveled with her family to Ethiopia to adopt her little brother. There she witnessed first-hand the deplorable state of Third-World medicine and returned home determined to take action in the fight against global poverty. One month later, in the wake of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, after reading about Medical Missionaries who established a hospital in Thomassique, Haiti, Lexy established a Medical Missionaries Club at her high school and helped raise $11,000 to assist the victims of the earthquake. After three years of leading the club and conducting numerous bake sales, raffles, school supply drives, and other fundraisers, Lexy and her fellow Medical Missionaries club members were invited by the President of Medical Missionaries to work at the St. Joseph’s Clinic in Haiti for a week in the summer of 2012. Lexy planned, fundraised, and led a group of five club members to the clinic where she helped organize pharmacies, plant fruit trees with a local Haitian Youth Group, and helped deliver two babies, among other activities. When not working for developing nations, Lexy pursues her love of helping the medically underserved in her own community by serving as a Spanish/English translator at her community free clinic.
Lexy has always been actively involved in music programs in school and has been a violinist in her high school orchestra. She always finds ways to combine her interests with service, as evidenced by her leadership in coordinating music performances for citizens in homeless shelters and nursing homes in the Northern Virginia and Washington D.C. area last year during the holiday season.
Lexy is an AP Scholar with Honors, a National Achievement Finalist, and the Recipient of The National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution Bronze Good Citizenship Medal. After completing her undergraduate studies, she plans to attend medical school with the hopes of expanding and improving health care systems in developing nations in order to extend the applications of science in the service of humanity.