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.
Last week, I wrote about my interest in going back to grad school to pursue a Master of Science in Biomimicry. I intended to do a *little* work on my personal statement this weekend and then just couldn’t stop myself. I wrote the whole dang thing in one sitting. And I cried because A) it means that much to me and B) I am a big ol’ sap. I had a good night’s sleep, got up early, edited it, and sent it off. So now, we wait. I feel insanely happy that I’ve taken this step. I can’t wait to spend my days learning from nature so that I can literally build a better world for all beings. I still feel like I’m dreaming a bit that this is actually going to happen (provided the application process goes well), and that’s okay with me. I’m fine with having a life that is the stuff of my dreams. Thank you all for sharing in this process!
The world is a magical place. At about 12:30am, I got a direct message on Twitter from a paleontologist whose work I greatly admire. (He discovered the largest dinosaur on record to-date.) He happened to be here for work and asked if I’d like to meet him at the Explorer’s Club before his evening train back to Philly. We met on Twitter in the Fall when I was tweeting about how much I loved his book, but I’ve never met him in real life. Since this is my Year of Yes, I accepted the invitation without hesitation. (And truth be told, even if this wasn’t my Year of Yes, I would have accepted!)
He has been a big supporter of my book and read it with his 10-year-old son. When I mentioned to him that I’d love to go to the Explorer’s Club because Emerson’s second book will have a scene there that will send her off on her next journey, he reached out to the head of public affairs and to their lead archivist to arrange for me to meet them during our visit today so that I would be given access to any help from them when writing my book. I. Was. Stunned.
Additionally, we talked about science education, the power of effective science communication, and dinosaurs (of course). I also learned a lot about his own personal and professional story that led him to where he is today. He is nothing short of inspirational. I honestly felt like I’ve known him for years and I could have stayed there for many hours chatting with him.
“Yes” is a powerful word. Kismet and synchronicity play a role for all of us if we stay open to possibility. Kindness and graciousness are immense gifts that cannot be measured. Twitter is an amazing tool to create connections that otherwise may never happen.