SoundBio is committed to building a strong DIY makerspace community in the Puget Sound region. Whether someone is a member, a volunteer, a high school iGEMer or a one-time visitor, we thought it would be fun to share a few of their unique stories - exploring how they’ve benefited from, but also given back to, our growing community. This page will be updated as we talk to more people impacted by SoundBio Lab!
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 yet inspirational gathering of like-minded folks pursuing a common goal, and 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!
Sophie Liu is a 17-year old junior at Newport High school in Bellevue, WA. She discovered SoundBio through an online search for internships after recognizing someone she knew from a blogpost about SoundBio’s iGEM team. This led Sophie to join the 2018 iGEM team, followed by a 9 month internship at the lab. She was dedicated to both endeavors, spending two hours a day on the bus during her commute from Bellevue to the U-District.
Sophie’s motivation to pursue the sciences started at a young age. She went through many different science ‘phases’; grade 1 - egyptology, grade 2 - geology, grade 3 - astronomy, grade 4th - physics/chem, grade 5th - marine science, and grade 6th - biology. It seems biology stuck! As Sophie says, “Life on a small scale is compelling because so much is not known.”
With regards to her education, Sophie believes that while grades are important, life is experiential. She is self-motivated in this quest and appreciates that SoundBio offers a variety of experiences to everyone regardless of their educational background.
Sophie’s delve into exploratory science was magnified while participating as a member of the iGEM team and gaining hands-on lab experience in synthetic biology. Additionally, she learned about community norms such as how to effectively communicate her findings to a broader audience.
Sophie realizes she is currently in the transition phase from adolescence to adulthood. She believes SoundBio has assisted her during this time by offering opportunities to engage with adults in diverse scientific arenas. It has also given a glimpse into what it’s like to work ‘in the real world’, and the responsibilities this entails. Her favorite memory was being given a set of keys to the lab as this was a new level of freedom and accountability for Sophie. This played an important role in her transition towards individuality and independence.
Sophie hopes the lab will grow in size over the coming years. When asked what SoundBio represents to her, she stated, “Potential!”. We think she’s right; the possibilities of scientific discovery are endless and SoundBio offers a stepping stone for curious minds like Sophie to start exploring.
Christiana Doulami currently works for a pharmaceutical company in Seattle as a researcher. She holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Cellular and Molecular Biology, and has laboratory experience in crystallography and academic cancer research from the University of Athens. She recently relocated to Seattle from Greece to grow her professional research experience; something that can be difficult to achieve in Athens.
Being an avid volunteer her entire life Christiana explored volunteering opportunities upon arriving in Seattle. She was amazed by the number of non-profits and the vibrant volunteering community here. SoundBio stood out to her based on her background and interests, and she contacted us. To Christiana, SoundBio was ideal; friendly and diverse faces, open to all, and fully equipped for research.
Within her first few weeks Christiana participated in one of our outreach events, teaching middle school kids how to extract DNA from strawberries. Besides the pleasure of contributing to the community, she saw this as an opportunity to practice her presentation and communication skills. She did an incredible job, and found the experience both memorable and rewarding. This and many other SoundBio activities turned out to be a great experience for Christiana, and through them she met and collaborated with many science enthusiasts while expanding her social and professional network.
When asked about SoundBio, Christiana said she is amazed that as a nonprofit, we have the equipment necessary to conduct a wide range of experiments. A laboratory is a typical space for biology majors and professionals, not generally for individuals lacking a scientific background. For her, the idea of a biology makerspace where ordinary citizens participate in hands-on science activities is exceptional.
The Citizen Salmon project is particularly meaningful to Christiana because it connects her to the environment and a crucial source of local food. We are delighted that Christiana has found a new home here in Seattle and at SoundBio.
Several years ago, Taylor Anderson moved his entire family from Florida to Seattle. Taylor met SoundBio co-founders Zach and Regina at an Amazon maker faire where he learned about the Citizen Salmon project. At the time, Taylor’s son, Carson, was showing a strong interest in science. Carson soon became a regular participant in the project; which at that point, was meeting in Zach’s garage!
Taylor was amazed that something like SoundBio and citizen science existed. He was impressed by several aspects of SoundBio; particularly the generosity, inspiration and caliber of people who supported his son.
Taylor says that involvement in SoundBio helped his son make deeper connections - both from an educational and career-driven point of view. “It’s one thing to learn about DNA in a classroom, but it’s quite another to connect the dots and go into a lab and work with it.” Carson’s involvement in SoundBio allowed what he was learning in a textbook come to life, all while working among professionals in the biotech community. It allowed Carson to envision a career in the life sciences while contributing meaningful efforts in conservation. As Taylor says, “it felt tangible and accessible”.
Dr. Sean Sleight
After finishing his PhD in microbiology and molecular genetics at Michigan State, Dr. Sean Sleight moved to Seattle to pursue a post-doc in Dr. Sauro’s lab at the University of Washington, Dept. of BioEngineering. During his post-doc, Dr. Sleight work on a variety of projects in the field of synthetic biology. This work led to a local cyanobacterial biofuels & specialty chemical company called Matrix Genetics where he was a manager in their synthetic biology group.
Sean is an avid hobbyist in beer brewing, so when Matrix folded, he decided to turn his hobby into a business. After speaking with SoundBio co-founder Dr. Mike Galdzicki, Sean realized that he could start a beer analytics business using the equipment and resources available at the lab. It was the perfect way to combine his passion for brewing with his expertise in genetic engineering. Despite some uncertainty around the business model, Sean was able to take time he needed to assess the market as he didn’t have massive upfront costs.
With support from the SoundBio community, Sean took the plunge and developed a variety of products and services for the local Puget Sound beer industry; yeast pitches and agar plates, contamination testing and yeast health (viability, vitality & fermentation monitoring). Sean also helped train several interns who expressed interested in his project - a great example of citizen science learning and collaboration.
To learn more about Sean’s fascinating story, read our blog post, a one-on-one interview with Dr. Sleight.
Mary Elizabeth Adler
Mary Elizabeth is currently a freshman at Princeton University and is pursuing a degree in chemical and biological engineering. Mary Elizabeth first became interested in molecular biology while in middle school where she met an extraordinary science teacher who introduced her to genetics. This was a pivotal and influential moment leading her to take as many biology classes as she could handle in high school. The problem was that by the time Mary Elizabeth was a junior she had taken all the biology classes offered. While speaking with a guidance counselor, she learned of a new iGEM team forming led by Roya Amini-Aaieni. At the time, SoundBio Lab had recently agreed to host this new high school science team in our space.
Mary Elizabeth was excited about the prospect of having access to a real lab and dove right in. “I got to do the things I was reading about, like transforming bacteria and designing plasmids.” When asked about her time at SoundBio, Mary Elizabeth stated:
Having a hands-on learning opportunity while in high school provided something concrete to focus on regarding her future academic pursuits, and was a vital component of her college application process; she was able to discuss what she was actually doing, rather than simply stating ‘This is what I want to do’. Mary Elizabeth admits that many of her initial experiments failed, however, since failure plays a central role in research she never felt discouraged.
Mary Elizabeth foraged new friendships and felt very warmly received. She appreciated that SoundBio provided both technical expertise and a welcoming environment. She believes a non-profit like SoundBio fills an important gap in hands-on learning. “I love that SoundBio gives kids, who maybe don’t have professors for parents, access to the tools they need to pursue science”. We couldn’t agree more!
At 9 years old, Theo is our youngest Tinkerer at SoundBio. He happens to love all things science and because both of his parents are heavily involved in the SoundBio community, it’s no surprise that Theo participates in a wide variety of events. He also assists with testing new activities to determine an engagement factor for other Junior Scientists.
When in the lab Theo learned about the importance of safety, and was always under direct supervision of one of his parents (both trained scientists). Here are a few fun activities Theo has participated in:
Private lab tour, ending in fruit DNA extraction
Dogfish shark dissection workshop
Candy electrophoresis workshop
With help from his father, he took some great pictures of protozoa using SoundBio’s new Compound Microscope
Theo attended our Sign-Making Party for Seattle’s Science March and was featured in a Crosscut article about the event.
When we asked The'o’s mother about SoundBio’s impact on Theo, she said:
“SoundBio offers an extraordinary opportunity for hands-on science exposure in a safe and supportive environment. There is simply nothing else like it in the greater Seattle region. Because Theo is young we can only postulate how these experiences might impact his future. However, it’s clear that his love of science has grown. I’ve heard Theo reference the shark dissection workshop several times since participating and he asked for a frog dissection kit for Christmas. I’m quite certain that request would not have materialized without SoundBio. When he grows up Theo says he wants to ‘make products from plants - things like food, medicine and oil; all from plants’, so we may need to get him involved in SoundBio’s plant TOP project soon!'“
After speaking with Theo about his favorite workshop, he said: