Chapter 10: Crossroads

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Dear GermiNature readers,

This is the second to last (if not the last) blog post that I’ll write on GermiNature; therefore, I would like to take the time to reflect on what I have accomplished and gained in the past five years. (hint: if you recognize the reference in the title, then you know one of my most favorite video games.  ^^ )

Five years is not a short time by any means, but gosh, it didn’t feel long either. If I was asked to summarize the ability that I gained from this unique Ph.D. program in the shortest possible terms, I would probably say the ability to do independent research, project management, and the ability to do transdisciplinary communication.

Due to the special infrastructure here for the Biomimicry Fellows in the Integrated Bioscience Program, both my two Ph.D. advisors, and my corporate sponsor provided me with the greatest freedom. As many of you would probably guess, too much freedom from the start isn’t always a good thing, hence the first two years of my Ph.D. was a slow start. However, once I set my own path and focused, I just cruised through a big chunk of my Ph.D. without realizing, and suddenly the finish line is just up ahead.

adom201770008-gra-0001-mI independently developed my dissertation proposal; pinpointed the resources that I would need to conduct my research, and helped to acquire some of these resources through a crowdfunding campaign and grant proposal writing; recruited collaborators with necessary skill sets that I lack (and learned some academic politics along the way). Looking back, I realize that I’m actually more independent than most people could ever be even in their post-doc stage. And luckily the outcome of my research is not disappointing either. About three months ago, my milestone blue tarantula biomimicry research was accepted and available online in the journal Advanced Optical Materials, and it was a big hit among the research community and industrial news outlets alike. It was #1 on the top download chart of the journal for two consecutive months, and it will be featured on the front cover of the printed issue that will be published next month (02/2017). Altogether, my research has been reported internationally in twelve languages, including BBC, The Atlantic, and National Geographic. I’m proud that I brought blue tarantula and its biomimicry story to people’s attention, and people have started to use the blue tarantula as a biomimetic example for structural color in addition to the cliché peacock feather and Morpho butterfly.

On the other hand, I also gained lots of real world biomimicry experience by participating in cross-disciplinary activities in different capacities, where I learned how to communicate with people from different fields and to become the bridge between them. I hosted and conducted many biomimicry lectures/workshops for my corporate sponsor; spent about three months at a local design firm working on projects for its clients using biomimicry process; and became the Chief Science Officer at Hedgemon, a start-up originally founded by Emily and Daphne developing hedgehog-inspired impact absorbing technologies. Thanks to the success of my research and our start-up company, I was fortunate enough to get contacted by some well-established science writers and journalists early on, and learned how to convey scientific findings in a short and simple way to the general public through these reporters. The experience is really quite unique and not many other Ph.D. programs in the world could provide an experience like this.

All in all, I would say that my time in Akron turned out to be good and satisfying. The most important thing for me now is to finish my dissertation and graduate. I still don’t know where I’m going after that (hence the title), but I’m sure I’ll figure that out by my next blog post. Maybe I’ll share that with you then?

Ciao~

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3 comments

  1. Rebecca Eagle-Malone

    Bill,
    I remember you giving the Biomimicry lecture at EJ Thomas Hall in 2012! It was so inspiring. Looking back, all 3 of you did amazing as first year students!!!! You have done great things over the past 5 years and have set the bar high for the rest of us!

    I wish you much success wherever life takes you. You are a wonderful person all around!!!!

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