Image: Alluvial fan, Xinjiang, China courtesy of USGS.
Getting a career going post-graduation is rarely easy at the best of times. But, a pandemic underway, Britain adjusting to life outside the EU, and the UK and wider global economy in a less than robust state, the classes of 2019, 2020 and 2021 have it particularly tough.
On April 23rd I'll be giving an online lecture and surgery in which I'll share insights and advice on ways to navigate a path through the unfolding storm. Part of University of Greenwich's 'Alumni Showcase' series, and titled, 'STEAM-ED Surgery | Starting Out and Up Across Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics, Enterprise and Design', the surgery will focus on addressing the particular challenges typically experienced by they working at the edge of innovation and enterprise, issues covered will include:
- how to make your personal career mark
- how to find and develop collaborative relationships
- the opportunities and risks when starting a start-up
- navigating the unknown – pathfinding where there are no pre-existing paths
- crafting your career over time
- getting the price and pitch for new client work right
- who’s who and you – building a productive network
- when to let go and walk away – knowing when enough is enough
- why no-one knows it all – finding a mentor and more
Featuring a 30-minute lecture and 30-minute Q&A, attendees are invited to share their career questions and concerns at the end of the session.
The Alumni Showcase is an ongoing series of virtual alumni-led events where ideas, advise, and experiences are shared to spark conversations and new friendships and connections.
Find out more and register here.
The Global Research & Innovation in Plastics Sustainability [GRIPS] digital conference will bring together leading researchers and practitioners from academic, industry, and government in the UK and beyond to explore the most promising possible solutions to the problem of plastics reaching landfill, incinerators, or becoming fugitive in the environment. Taking place March 16th - 18th, and partnered with UK Research and Innovation, KTN, and UK Circular Plastics Network, the conference will be comprised virtual talks, workshops, showcases, and an exhibition.
Its aim to encourage cross-sector innovations, commercialising of knowledge and expertise, and support real world impacts, GRIPS is sponsored by organisations including the Institute of Materials, Minerals, and Mining, and Sky Ocean Ventures, and features a formidable line-up of speakers from organisations including the universities of Manchester, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Cambridge, Lancaster, Sheffield, Exeter, Hull, Leeds, Bath, Northampton, Brunel, and Minnesota, together with Queens University Belfast, University College London, Imperial College London, and ETH Zurich, and from BSI, NERC, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Recycling and Recovery UK, Worn Again Technologies, WRAP, Innovate UK, National Oceanography Centre, US Department of Energy, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, USA, among others.
Ahead of the launch of a commissioned report on nano and micro plastics pollution from tyres co-authored by Dr. David Greenfield and myself, we will be presenting some of our findings in a session titled 'A Focus on: Tyre Elastomers', which will take place on March 17th 13:00 - 14:00 GMT. We'll be joined by Hanson Cheng of The Tyre Collective and Graham Wilson, Chief Executive of the British Tyre Manufacturers Association. Our session will discuss the particular problems presented by polymer microparticles in the environment and what the state-of-the-science suggests to be the most viable means of mitigating the issue - spanning disciplines including biomaterials, biomimetic filtration, among other emerging fields.
Find out more and register here.
On January 28th I had the pleasure of joining champion of sustainability and social justice Amisha Ghadiali in conversation for The Future is Beautiful podcast series. Having met Amisha in the late 00s, and contributed to project's interview series in 2011, book in 2016, and leadership course in 2020, our conversation was part of an ongoing discussion exploring how we, humanity, may build a brighter future.
Listen to our conversation at the link below, and find out more about The Future is Beautiful here.
Image: Mycofiltration Kamchatka: Architectural implementation of intelligent mycelium myco filtration system in Kamchatka by Kilian Rothmaya, Institute of Urban Design Synthetic Landscape Lab.
On 27th January I had the pleasure of joining the students, staff, and fellow guest critics of the Synthetic Landscape Lab at University of Innsbruck for the end of winter term juries. Assembled remotely, via Zoom, faculty members inc. Prof. Claudia Pasquero, Dr. Marco Poletto, Annarita Papeschi, and Maria Kuptsova and guest critics inc. Prof. Liss C. Werner, Dr. Mathilde Marengo, Ivan Valdez, and I critiqued works-in-progress across four courses: theory course, BA design studio, MA design studio, and pre-diploma.
Streamed live on the lab's YouTube channel, works presented included theoretical statements to explorations of virtual reality spaces to designing radical bio-digital design visions, all exploring the idea of synthetic landscapes, which the lab defines as "a design philosophy that encompasses all the processes and systems, humans, animal, microbiological and digital, that are currently accelerating the transformation of our urbansphere".
Featuring projects from the first Masters design studio to be conducted entirely in virtual reality, such as Thole Althoff's project [below], the immersive session invited assembled faculty and guests to view the projects using an array of devices and platforms, including Oculus VR sets. Integrating data and processes including satellite imaging and DeepGreen AI design protocol, the Masters projects illustrated how current and emerging technologies may enable complex landscape and related systems to be modelled in ways which help efforts to mitigate environmental issues.
Below: Mycofiltration Kamchatka: Architectural implementation of intelligent mycelium myco filtration system in Kamchatka by Kilian Rothmaya. Bottom: EcoLogical Motion by Max Lorenz and Michel Schweiger.
Supported by institutions including the Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, among others, Biosphere Futures is a global database of place-based socio-ecological scenarios, case studies, references, key literature, and practical resources spread across geographic locations, ecosystems, and spatial scales worldwide. Users can search for content based on several criteria, including the Sustainable Development Goals of the Agenda 2030.
With ample place-based socio-ecological scenarios, case studies, literature and other resources that have been made open-access, I have so-far contributed 3 scenarios and a first-in-kind case study [header above] and will be loading more works to the site as it grows. A beautifully conceived, designed, and curated collection, I have no doubt this new resource will prove helpful to many working in the futures space.
Read more about the project, its aims, and resources below and at this link.
Extract from Biosphere Futures:
"The Earth is a living planet. As far as we know, the only living planet in the Universe. The “Biosphere” is the place on Earth's surface where life dwells, as defined in 1875 by geologist Eduard Suess. In 1968, the first intergovernmental Biosphere Conference was held in Paris. It was recognized that humans, including their social interactions, are an integrated part of the biosphere, and a key factor in modifying the biosphere. The Biosphere Conference declared firmly that the conservation and use of resources of the biosphere should go hand-in-hand rather than in opposition -- thus promoting what we now call sustainable development -- and that interdisciplinary scientific approaches should be promoted to achieve this aim. To that end, we created Biosphere Futures to promote the development and application of scenarios that explicitly incorporate interdependencies between humans and their supporting ecosystems.
Our aim is to facilitate the use of social-ecological scenario planning for sustainable development of the Biosphere and help build a community of practice around social-ecological scenarios. We provide access to a rich collection of case studies from around that can be used to explore the various ways in which the future might unfold. Together, the case studies give insight into the diversity and plurality of people's expectations and aspirations for the future, and help understand interactions between the Sustainable Development Goals in different social-ecological contexts. Biosphere Futures is the product of a community effort. Case owners are encouraged to promote their work by contributing information about their study and share references to their products."
Last year, at the invitation of Professor Haifa Takruri-Rizk, fellow University of Salford alumnae and I gathered via Zoom to discuss our experiences of working in STEM through the pandemic. Speakers from both industry and academia, and from regions including UK/Europe, Middle East, and the Americas, among others, including Karima Es Sabar, CEO and Partner at Quark Venture; Dr. Sara Biscaya, Lecturer in Architecture at University of Salford; Helen Sheldon, Associate at RBA Acoustics; and myself, shared insights into how the unfolding events have impacted our research and practice. Our discussions expanded to issues facing women in STEM more generally, and to our suggestions as to possible means of remedy at the organisational, industry, and policy level. We hope to reconvene at a future date to explore how we can utilise our collective agency in addressing the issues raised. Those interested to read extracts from our discussions will find them in the QI 2021 edition of From Salford here.
This week and next, the International Design Awards have handed the their Instagram account over to its jury to share their thoughts on design. Having taken the account's reigns today, an IDA judge since 2008, I shared the qualities that I look for when casting my votes, which are:
A signatory of the #SheChangesClimate letter to the UK government, urge all female peers working with climate issues to join me. Find out more, together with the link to add you name to the growing list, here.
Extract from SheChangesClimate.com
Leadership teams that are representative of the world we live in are better at their jobs. That's why She Changes Climate is campaigning for a 50:50 split of men and women in the top levels of the COP26 leadership team.
Our ethos is founded in the scientifically-proven fact that diverse boards and leadership teams are better at being leaders, better at governance, and more successful in the work they do. They're better at negotiation, get better results and can make more inclusive and balanced decisions because they are able to draw on wider knowledge bases and experiences.
When it comes to climate change, being representative isn't about looking good, it's about setting a good example and doing the best job possible. Not just for the nations being represented, but for every single one of their citizens.
Our current focus is on getting COP26 to achieve a 50:50 split of men and women in its top-level leadership team in the UK, but our global missions is to ensure ALL delegations have at least a 50% representation of women at their top levels."
Joining over 250 signatories from 30 nations around the world, I am calling on policymakers to engage more with the growing risk of societal disruption and collapse due to damage to the climate and wider environment. Each specialists in subject areas that related to the various challenges, we commonly believe it is time to listen to the sum of the scholarship on humanity's predicament. Our letter is available in both English and French, and extracts are published in today's edition of The Guardian. Find an extract from our letter below, the version in full together with the list of signatories here, and follow the commentary on social media using the hashtags #scholarswarning and #breakdownwarning.
"Subject: Only if we discuss collapse might we prepare
As scientists and scholars from around the world, we call on policymakers to engage openly with the risk of disruption and even collapse of our societies. After five years of failing to reduce carbon emissions in line with the Paris Climate Accord (1), we must now face the consequences.
While bold and fair efforts to cut emissions and naturally drawdown carbon are essential, researchers in many areas now consider societal collapse to be a credible scenario this century (2a & 2c). A range of views exist on the location, extent, timing, permanence and cause of such disruptions; but the way modern societies exploit people and nature is a common concern (3a & 3b).
Only if policymakers begin to discuss this threat of societal collapse might communities and nations begin to prepare and so reduce its likelihood, speed, severity, harm to the most vulnerable, and to nature."
Cambridge University Library has announced a public appeal for help in locating two missing notebooks which document some of Charles Darwin's most seminal concepts, including his 1837 'Tree of Life' sketch (pictured above). Once thought misplaced, an exhaustive search of the library has led the curators to sadly conclude the notebooks have, most likely, been stolen. Now registered on the national Art Loss Register for missing cultural artefacts, these invaluable works have also been added to Pysche - Interpol's database for stolen artworks. The public appeal was launched today to coincide with 'Evolution Day', which recognises the anniversary of Darwin's publication of On Origin of Species in November 24th 1859.
In the words of Dr. Jessica Gardener, University Librarian and Director of Library Services, "Someone, somewhere, may have knowledge or insight that can help us return these notebooks to their proper place at the heart of the UK's cultural and scientific heritage". Anyone with any information that may help find Darwin's missing notebooks are urged to contact manuscript appeal (@) lib.cam.ac.uk or to contact www.cambs.police.uk/report reference number 35/71468/20 or www.crimestoppers-uk.org. Read more about the notebooks and the appeal here.
Melissa Sterry, PhD, chartered design scientist, systems theorist, biofuturist, and serial founder inc. Bionic City®
Asking the question "how would nature design a city" since 2010.
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