Wakanene grew up in Ohio with parents who were both botanists. From a young age, he wanted to pursue biology, but in his own unique way. He majored in biological chemistry while in college, and when he moved to Seattle, he looked for a deeper connection to his community through science. One day, while working for a local biotech company, Wakanene noticed a bioart book on the coffee table. It immediately sparked his interest, so he put a sticky note on it, hoping to find the owner. SoundBio co-founder, Dr. Mike Galdzaki responded, and before he knew it, Wakanene was in Zach’s garage pursuing his first citizen science project!
Wakanene loved getting involved with the Citizen Salmon project early because he could help define the project and influence its direction. This freedom of scientific pursuit was exciting and empowering. In high school, Wakanene remembered how amazing it was to study bacteria in the lake near where he lived. Having such a close environmental connection to his work was particularly meaningful, and he finally found that connection again, through Citizen Salmon.
Wakanene appreciated the more informal, inspirational gathering of like-minded folks pursuing a common goal. He loves that citizen science projects attract curious and passionate individuals. Because he had a strong educational support system growing up, he was in a great position to repay the favor by helping others. Wakanene believes that SoundBio projects encourage curiosity, community and fun!
Realizing that not all science has to be formal (i.e. publish or perish), Wakanene purposefully sought out a non-traditional graduate program last fall. He is currently getting his Masters in Media Arts and Sciences at MIT’s Media Lab. As a member of the Sculpting Evolution group, he is studying evolving systems including, but not limited to, gene drives - which are capable of altering DNA in wild populations. The projects he works on today help broaden participation in science, and often involve community engagement, two key pillars of SoundBio. Fantastic!