This week, I have the great pleasure and honor to teach biomimicry to 300 high school and college students through a program run by the Wildlife Conservation Society. (WCS is famously known in the U.S. for all of New York’s zoos including the Bronx Zoo, central Park Zoo, and New York Aquarium!) The feedback was terrific with some of them saying this was the best presentation they’ve had in their entire summer program and a few of them reaching out to me personally asking if I’d mentor them.
They’ve filled me with joy and I’m grateful to all of them and to WCS for the opportunity to share my passion for nature as our greatest design teacher. I’m one tiny step closer to my goal of finding a way to get biomimicry into every high school and college in the country. If you’d like me to present to your group or class (young children, teens, or adults), please let me know!
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.
Need to hear about hopeful ways science and biomimicry are working to stop the spread of COVID-19? I’m honored to be presenting my research and work at this Call to Action webinar on Tuesday, 4/7 at 2pm EDT with my colleagues and you can attend! The webinar is free and you need to register to receive the log-in information. Register at: bit.ly/2Ra2AF5
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!
I tried to sleep in today to rest up for the wknd. I just couldn’t—way too excited for SciCommCamp. I’m in LA only for the weekend to go to this amazing conference that is nerdy Fall camp for people who love science and love talking about it! Sneaking in a quick trip to Griffith Park before heading up to Simi Valley. Excited for everything I’m going to learn and I promise to share when I get back.
Sometimes I think I could live off a steady diet of curiosity, joy, and enthusiasm. (I won’t test that theory because I love food but it’s a strong hunch!)
LA, I’m glad to see you again and I’m pretty sure I’ll be back again very soon. Happy Friday, friends.
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.
As many of you know, I’ve been working on my science writing and bringing since into my career as a product developer. I’m so excited to share that over the next few months, one of my favorite biomimicry publications is going to publish a series of pieces I’ve been wanting to write. I’m over the moon excited about this, and as a source of inspiration, I wanted to share how it all came about.
Twitter magic and the glass sponge
I’m pretty active on Twitter where my feed is mashup of different topics, two main ones being my writing and my work in biomimicry. A couple of weeks ago, I learned about the glass sponge for a grad school assignment.
Very quick recap: the glass sponge lives on the ocean floor over 1000 meters below sea level and is one of the oldest species in existence today. It builds one of the the most stable structures on Earth with the minimal amount of material needed. Its glass is transparent, flexible, and created from sea minerals (such as calcium carbonate, salt, and carbon dioxide) at ocean temperatures (~4 degrees Celsius, ~39 degrees Fahrenheit). It is created and then biodegrades without any toxic waste. Human-made glass is extremely fragile, expensive, and dirty to create—glass and cement production generates 5-7% of the Earth’s greenhouse gas emissions. It requires very hot temperatures in a kiln and therefore is also energy intensive.
Though we’ve known about the glass sponge for decades, engineers, designers, and scientists have no idea how it creates its glass and we’ve never been able to replicate its far superior product. It’s an absolute mystery. But when we learn its secrets, it has the potential to transform our construction industry into one that’s sustainable, clean, and healthy for the planet.
Power to the crowd
So…back to my writing. I wrote a tweet about the magnificent glass sponge just as part of my regular social media promotion of science and biomimicry. It got a lot of attention and became the 2nd most shared story about biomimicry on Twitter the week I posted it, second only to one my Mashable. That got the attention of this publication, and they asked me if I’d like to write something for them. And heck yes, I would!
What I’ll be writing
They asked me to pitch a topic to them. True to my brand, I gave them 10 pitches hoping there might be one in there that they’d like. To my surprise, they loved them all and asked me to write one a month. So, we’re off the races and here are the first few topics that will be coming out in the next few months:
1. Biomimicry and the Green New Deal (November)
2. Biomimicry and materials science (December)
3. Biomimicry makes the case for species conservation (January)
4. Medical applications of biomimicry (February)
I tell this story because I want it to inspire you to get out there and shout about what you love, what fascinates you, not because you hope it gets you something but just because you love it so much that you can’t keep it to yourself. I’m thrilled by this development in my writing. Shocked even. And even if no one liked the glass sponge tweet, it wouldn’t have mattered because I love it and wanted to share it.
The big publishing take-away
That’s the bit no one ever told me about publishing. In the age when people are obsessed with platform and followers and likes and retweets, too many of us have forgotten about joy. That’s the thing to focus on. That’s the secret sauce that keeps us going. Fill up your head, heart, hands, and feeds with joy, and see what happens. It’s a skeleton key that unlocks doors we didn’t even know were there.
I just heard about President Jimmy Carter’s fall. This weekend, I learned a friend’s mother sustained a serious injury from a fall. Over the summer, we lost a dear friend of our family after he fell and injured his spine.
Recently, I’ve started to think about how I could use biomimicry to develop products that protect older adults from falling injuries. The stats are more startling than I realized:
– Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the ER for a fall
– 1:4 Americans over the age of 65 falls each year—29M falls causing 7M injuries
– Scariest of all, every 19 minutes an older adult dies from a fall
People ask me why science is so important to me, why I would make this career change now to study biomimicry when I could just happily continue along as a fan and promoter of science, and not a practicing scientist. This is why: it can change people’s lives. Science is service, and if we aren’t being of service to one another then what are we doing with our time? There are many ways to serve – millions of them every moment of every day. The combination of science, product development, business, and writing about all of it just happens to be the one that lights me up.
As a scientist-in-training in the field of biomimicry and a beginning filmmaker, the Imagine Science Film Festival is a perfect lab for people like me who want to use the medium of film to ignite and inspire curiosity and wonder about our natural world.
The New York City-based festival kicks off this week on Friday, October 18th, and runs through next Friday, October 25th. There are events each day at various locations around the city, and the majority of the films are short-format. Whether you’re interested in science, filmmaking, or a combination of the two, this festival is a wonderful way to see new research that’s emerging as well as new ways of explaining and communicating science. Get a feel for the festival by check out the trailer at https://vimeo.com/363581326
The whole schedule is available online, along with links for tickets sales, and here is a summary with all of the direct ticket links for each:
Friday, October 18
Opening Night of the Imagine Science Film Festival | The spaces between utopia and dystopia, gene editing, and the post-anthropocene.
Saturday, October 19
Science for Nanos: Taking Flight
Film program for kids at the Imagine Science Film Festival | Whether by wing, flipper, jet, or rocket, everyone must leave the nest someday.
Can humanoid robots be our friends? Scientists and tech visionaries believe that artificially intelligent robots will become an integral part of everyday life.
Sunday, October 20
Films on perception and memory, consciousness and identity, and the spaces that lie between mind and circuitry.
Tales from the Biosphere
The surface of the earth teems with stories, a drama which has played out over millenia. Will we continue to play a part of it all?
Monday, October 21st
Symbiosis Lab: Talks, Films, and Drinks
Watch six working scientists and six pro filmmakers as they compete to create new genre bending works in science filmmaking.
Tuesday, October 22nd
Self-care, Alchemy, and Other Life Hacks
Each year we save some of the most audacious reconfigurations of scientific themes for a program of largely animation and experimental film
The film program in which we allow some of the phantoms banished by science back into the proceedings.
Wednesday, October 23rd
This program collects 4 brilliant experiments in light, landscape, perception. Luminous photochemical effects. Climactic celestial events.
Thursday, October 24th
Eyes on Elsewheres
How do we observe that which we cannot experience directly? Whether searching the surfaces of distant planets or peering into the quantum world, science seeks to extend our perception ever further.
Friday, October 25th
Six new science films in which emerging filmmakers and working scientists have been paired and supplied with production funds to create new genre bending works in one week examining all aspects of emergence.