I bursted into tears yesterday when I turned in my final assignment for my capstone project to complete my biomimicry graduate school program. A year and a half ago I started this journey and I wasn’t sure where it would take me but I knew I was fulfilling a dream I’d had since I was a kid—to bring science into my career in a deep and meaningful way. There was no way I could have known then the spotlight that would be on science now, or how important it would be to finish my program now and get out into the world and use it. So here’s what I’m doing with it, starting today…welcome to the world Beyond Plastic.
I’m so excited to share the news that I was accepted into the ComSciCon Flagship workshop, a science communication event for graduate students. 950 graduate students applied this year for 50 slots. This year’s event was supposed to be in Boston but will be held online because of COVID-19. I’m honored to participate at this critical time in our history when science and science communication are having massive impacts on every area of our lives in every corner of the world. I can’t wait to meet and learn with the other attendees and all of the invited experts. To learn more about this event and the organization, please visit https://comscicon.com/comscicon-2020-flagship-workshop.
I’m so excited to share that I reached one of my big writing goals for 2019: I wrote and published two pieces about biomimicry for a science publication. I’m so grateful to The Biomimicry Institute for reaching out to me and asking me to write for them. My two pieces about biomimicry’s pivotal role in the Green New Deal (a set of policies to protect the health of our planet) and the Blue New Deal (a subset of Green New Deal policies that focuses on the health of our oceans) are now live. You can read them at the links below. I’d love to know what you think!
For the past few weeks, I’ve been looking around for an affordable way to take some science pre-requisites. While I’ve learned so much in my biomimicry studies, I really need a much stronger foundation in science and research to do the work I want to do—using nature’s designs to build products, systems, and services.
This led me to reach out to a Principal Investigator (PI) who runs a nanotechnology lab here in New York City, where I live. We’ve had some wonderful conversations and are planning to do a short research project together this spring which will be my last requirement for my biomimicry certificate. I’m considering doing my PhD with him, and to make that a possibility I need to take science requisites: two semesters each of biology, chemistry, and organic chemistry. The challenge—science classes are expensive!
I investigated online options thinking that would be the most economical way to go. Not by a long shot! They didn’t have any with labs, which is what I need, and I was astounded at the cost – $700 per credit for 22 credits left me looking at a tuition bill of over $15,000. And that wasn’t even the total cost since I’d have to get the lab experience elsewhere. I was crestfallen.
Then on a whim, I decided to look into the local community college – Borough of Manhattan Community College. And what to my wondering eyes did appear? Classes conveniently timed and in mixed formats of online, in-person, and hybrid at $263 per credit for in-state residents like me. I’m elated! I can get all my requirements in done right on time to (hopefully) start my PhD in the Fall of 2021.
Community colleges are unsung heroes in our communities, and I’m going to be shouting about their value for a long time. If you have dreams that require some additional education, I highly encourage giving your local community college a look. I hope you’re as surprised and delighted as I am by the opportunities they offer.
Hi all! Quick question for you: I’ve thought about starting a biomimicry podcast because there isn’t one (which is shocking considering there’s a podcast for nearly everything!?) If I did start one—interviewing people who practice, use, teach, and study biomimicry, and talking about new cool biomimicry inspirations—would you listen?
In case you haven’t heard of biomimicry, it’s the practice of applying the genius designs of nature to the human-built environment. This could be products, systems, processes, buildings, whole cities, you name it! If humans design it, looking to nature for design inspiration and guidance will make designs more sustainable, efficient, and beneficial for the planet. Check out more about what biomimicry is by visiting https://biomimicry.org/.
What is it about biomimicry that has me so fired up to make it the center of my business career? It’s articles like this piece on NPR about how mussels can clean oil and heavy metals from water. Nature holds the key to so many problems we have. It already knows what to do; it already has the solutions we are so desperate to find. (And given the state of our planet, our desperation is justified!) Our job now is to listen, to watch, to observe, and then replicate what works. We can do this. (Big thanks to my dear friend, Edith Gonzalez, who helped me find a new way forward when I was at first unsure, and to Brian McCormack, who sent me this article and constantly helps me find the light amidst so much darkness.
I found summer camp for science nerds – but even better because it’s during the Fall, my favorite season. And I’m going!
Yesterday I was listening to Ologies podcast and Alie Ward mentioned Sci Comm Camp, a gathering that takes place over a long weekend in November outside of LA. There are workshops, fun presentations, and plenty of downtime to connect with people who love science and are passionate about sharing science with others.
Given my graduate studies in biomimicry at Biomimicry 3.8 and Arizona State University, my desire to spread this practice as far and wide as possible, and my love for collaborating and learning from others, this seems like the perfect event for me. Plus, I’m hoping to sneak in a trip to see some L.A. pals while I’m there. Already looking forward to November!
I’m studying sustainable coastal resilience strategies in the face of climate change and rising sea levels. Seawalls don’t provide sufficient protection, harm wildlife, pollute waterways, and are difficult and expensive to maintain. Artificial walls don’t work in nature. What works is building longer buffet tables and larger homes that make accommodations for all stakeholders—coral reefs, mangroves, oyster beds, and salt marshes. This idea is much more than a metaphor or allegory. Seawalls are a cautionary tale of what happens when we exclude beings who have all the same rights that we do to survive and thrive. Sustainable solutions have successfully played out over the course of 3.8 billion years of natural history’s R&D lab. We would be wise to follow its example.
If you’re wondering why I’m so forking excited about studying biomimicry at Arizona State University’s Biomimicry Center, I want you to meet Janine Benyus, the founder of this field and creator of this program. Welcome to the future. Welcome to the movement. Here’s Janine: https://asuonline.wistia.com/medias/npzymug1ue
Last week I had the chance to interview a number of biologists about their work. All of them expressed enthusiasm and passion for their work. And all of them explained that the worst part of their jobs was the funding process. I took some time and looked into this further, and found that this is a pervasive problem. We have many brilliant scientists who have a tough time making a living and remaining joyful about their work because of the tedious, broken, and inefficient funding system in place and the stress it causes.
Platforms like Patreon are great. Merchandise sales are helpful. I use both these outlets to support work that’s important to me, science included. However, the sustainability of these efforts and their ability to support the goal of scientists to be compensated in proportion to the importance of their vital work seems questionable.
So what’s a scientist to do?
That’s the question I’m attempting to answer with the concept for a new product development company that I hope to start when I finish my Masters in biomimicry. I have a BA in Economics and History, an MBA, and a 20-year career in business and product development. Why am I getting this degree in science? Because I believe that all these aspects need to be combined for the sustainability and health of the planet. And as a happy consequence, I want to employ talented scientists in that endeavor so that their research is more widely applied and they are able to generate an income with benefits that helps them live a good quality of life outside of the drudgery of the ever-more-competitive funding cycles.
I understand that this is a very tall order. That it will take a huge amount of work and time to get this right. But I think I can do it, and I’m going to try for all our sakes.