Meet the 2023 Launchpad Participants

The Biomimicry Launchpad is a program that helps scientists, innovators, and designers bring their nature-inspired ideas into reality. It is our great pleasure to introduce to you the extraordinary 2023 cohort.

This group of individuals represents a beautiful tapestry of diverse backgrounds, talents, and experiences, all brought together by a shared passion for the natural world and a deep desire to create meaningful and sustainable solutions. Our cohort consists of 16 brilliant minds, hailing from every corner of the globe. Among them are scientists, engineers, architects, designers, and artists, each bringing a unique perspective to the table. Some are seasoned professionals with decades of expertise, while others are emerging talents just beginning to make their mark. This diverse blend of knowledge and perspectives creates a fertile ground for collaboration and cross-pollination of ideas.

As we embark on this journey with the 2023 Launchpad cohort, let us celebrate the richness of their backgrounds, the depth of their expertise, and the boundless possibilities that lie ahead. Together, they will push the boundaries of innovation, drawing from nature’s wisdom and translating it into practical applications that will shape a more sustainable and resilient future

Hover over each participant to learn more about them.

Jessica Tay

Jessica Tay, PhD, is a graduate of the University of Oldenburg, Germany where she is currently a postdoctoral researcher in the working group of Prof Gerhard Zotz on the functional ecology of vascular epiphytes. It was here where she gained an interest in the biomechanics of bark epiphytes, and she discovered that some vascular epiphytes attached to their host trees by means of adhesion with a bioadhesive exuded from the root hairs. As part of her future research, she plans to isolate and characterize the bioadhesive from the plants. As an ecologist, she focuses on the attachment mechanics of different plant structures to various substrate surfaces, to expand current knowledge on nature-inspired designs for adhesion. When she is not in the lab or in the field for her research work, Jessica can be spotted in the garden tending to her vegetables or cooking in silence in the kitchen.

Alannah Johnson

Alannah Johnson is Mycologist & Biomimicry MSc student at Arizona State University (ASU). Alannah is re-imagining a healthcare system that operates and functions in a similar way that fungal networks operate in forest ecosystems. She strongly believes that cooperative relationships not only build strong systems, but build strong communities. She hopes to use mycological systems as a guide to not only sustain, but regenerate the health of people, economies, and our planet.

Ñawi K. Flores

Ñawi K. Flores, of the Antis and Iñan, Kutakachi Nation, and Chichubamba Clan, is a Runa Scholar and Yuyaykamayuk leading the charge in regenerative systems design and leadership. Deeply influenced by Indigenous Philosophy, his work intertwines nature-modeled solutions with transformative social-ecological systems, fostering business models that value social elements and nature. Leveraging his knowledge in Heritage Agriculture, Earth & Environmental Sciences, Biology, Circular Economy, and Business, Ñawi crafts innovative pathways that safeguard heritage agroecosystem and advocate culture intelligence valuation systems. His mission is to regenerate Symbiotic Indigeneity and catalyze regenerative economics based on Indigenous Philosophy, fostering collaborations across private, public, and Local, Indigenous, and Descendant (LID) communities. Ñawi’s journey to build K’allam’p and Antis Farm Hub encapsulate the essence of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice, and Belonging (DEIJ-B), lighting the voids for emerging future regenerative leaders to innovate. Joining the Biomimicry Institute community, he aspires to help mold a society that honors the complex symbiosis of nature and humanity. His expertise and philosophical approach promise to enrich our collective mission to co-design a resilient, inclusive future.

Yogendra Pratap Signh

Yogendra is a bioengineer driven by a passion for applying biomimicry and engineering principles to advance human health and medicine. Currently a Postdoctoral Scholar at Penn State University specializing in 3D Bioprinting of tissues and organs, he aims to uncover nature-inspired innovations and regenerative solutions for complex biological and medical challenges. With a background in Zoology and Ph.D. from IIT Guwahati, India in “Tissue Engineering” focused on silk-based biomaterials for osteoarthritis management, Yogendra combines his scientific expertise with an adventurous spirit as a marathon runner, wildlife enthusiast, and world traveler.

Zahra Jajarmikhayat

Creating an intimate and sensitive dialogue with nature is the main focus of Zahra’s art and design practice. Exploratory and experimental nature of her work leads into projects that are research-based and concept-driven with an emphasis on multi-disciplinary collaboration. Zahra experiments with different materials, processes and methodologies to create objects/systems (physical or digital) that encompass all the aspects of her obsession with material form and its physical properties. She looks into unfamiliar concepts to discover new modes of interpreting fragments of the natural world. Engagement from both a scientific and artistic point of view provides her with opportunities to gain profound understanding of matter and its surrounding ecosystems. Themes present in Zahra’s work are full system thinking, material research, traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), biophilia, regenerative design and plant intelligence. Citizen science movement and the latest implications of the bio-materials have both had a direct influence on her work.

Marcia Christine

Marcia Christine is a full-time tenured professor at the University of Akron in the Civil Engineering Department. She has proudly spent 18 of her 24 years at Akron as the Program Director for the Construction Engineering Technology program, working diligently to support student success. She is a lifelong Ohioan and is currently living in North Canton, Ohio, with her husband, Mark, and pets, Penny & Marvin. Her academic accomplishments include both the BS and MS in Civil Engineering (University of Akron) and the Professional Engineer’s License in the State of Ohio. She is presently completing a certificate program in Biomimicry, is a graduate of the NSF I-Corp program, is a certified Quality Matters online course designer, and is currently a member of the 2023 Biomimicry Launchpad Program sponsored by the Biomimicry Institute. Marcia is dedicated to lifelong learning and is passionate about helping others accomplish their academic and professional goals. She enjoys student advising, curriculum development, professional networking and pursuing anything interesting that expands her own professional portfolio. Marcia is particularly proud of her work as a subject matter expert for the American Council on Education’s Military Transfer Assurance Program, where she reviews military program courses and recommends equivalent college credit for soldiers that successfully complete training. She has developed an online degree program in collaboration with a world leader in specialty coatings (RPM international/Tremco) to offer an associate degree for project managers within their company. This program was so successful that the University of Akron has now opened the program to the general public as an online associate degree program. Marcia’s future goal is to pursue opportunities that integrate her engineering knowledge, administrative expertise, and her knowledge of science to explore and promote nature-inspired solutions to human problems.

Mac Van Dam

Mac Van Dam is a multi-disciplinary designer working in architecture, art, object design, and material science. His work is rooted in a material-led design process and a desire to bring biological/living sensibilities to the everyday. He is currently designing artworks and contemporary, highly ecological, forms of urban green infrastructure (Vertical Grounds Design Lab). The company has recently released the Living Lattice, an innovative living wall system that focuses on resilience, organic materiality, and architectural quality. Before founding design studios in the UK, Mac was a research member at the Living Architecture Systems Group in Toronto, the Bio integrated Design Lab at UCL, and has worked at internationally acclaimed architecture firms. His work has been shown at the Lisbon Triennale, London Design Festival, Venice Biennale, Coachella, and several other international design exhibitions.

Steve Farrell

Steve Farrell is an Artist and Designer from Black Mountain, NC. He is the Director of Design and Sustainability with Asheville based Stephens Smith Farrell Architecture. Steve is an Accredited Professional with the USGBC and is the Architect-of-Record for the first LEED Certified Building for any College or University in North Carolina. Go Owls! He has served as an Ambassador for the Living Building Challenge and is Vice Chair of Greenbuilt Alliance, an environmental and social justice 501c3 in Asheville. Steve and his wife Dana are building a Net Positive Energy house where they plan to create a pollinator garden and bocce court. Steve and Dana enjoy gardening, birds, hiking and foraging in the beautiful and bountiful Southern Appalachian Mountains with their Irish Shedder, Tate. “If you’re green, you’re growing.”

Jayanth Ivvala

Jayanth Ivvala is an accomplished researcher in the “Surface Science and Tribology Lab” of Shiv Nadar Institution of Eminence, Delhi-NCR, India. His PhD thesis focuses on “the development of bioinspired superhydrophobic metallic surfaces”. Having previously taught in reputed engineering colleges, he consistently ranks among the best faculty members. Known for his teaching excellence, Jayanth is also known for his commitment to undergraduate research and personal development. He has also organized and conducted scientific conferences and workshops and published high-quality papers. Beyond academia, A passionate reader, Jayanth enjoys reading, listening, and writing articles about human life and nature philosophy. Having been inspired by nature and its valuable lessons, he founded a startup incubated by Shiv Nadar AIC Research Foundation, demonstrating his commitment to innovation and entrepreneurial spirit.

Andrew Schulz

Andrew Schulz is a postdoctoral researcher at Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, Germany studying biologically inspired haptics. Andrew graduated with his Ph.D. from Georgia Institute of Technology, studying elephant trunk biomechanics and biomimicry through soft robotic devices, advanced materials, and conservation technology. Andrew organized a new student organization at Georgia Tech, helping connect undergraduate students to create sustainable conservation tools to help save wildlife from extinction. Additionally, Andrew worked on outreach and connection with Zoo Atlanta helping organize various outreach, education, and research activities in the community on ideas of Biomimicry, Conservation Technology, and Physics. Andrew is actively seeking a faculty position in engineering at a research-focused institution studying the connection of biomimicry, engineering, and wildlife conservation.

Veronica Mangio

Veronica Mangio is currently receiving her Master of Art in Sustainable Design from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and received her Bachelor of Science in User Experience from the Milwaukee School of Engineering. Veronica is a multidisciplinary artist and designer; Nature tends to be her inspiration and she uses various mediums, including gouache, watercolor, oil pastels, colored pencils, photography, and more. Her goal as an artist is to produce art that is made with sustainable materials and recreate Nature’s beauty in various forms. As a designer, she strives to support sustainable design that is accessible to all and intertwined with everyday life. As an academic, she is exploring the intersection of art, design, science, and engineering. One of her current projects to intertwine these disciplines is to design and produce sustainable climbing holds. Veronica enjoys rock climbing, hiking, coffee shops, Swedish “fika”, and 3D printing.

Paloma Lenz

Paloma Lenz is an undergraduate at Yale University studying environmental engineering and architecture. While most of her projects focus on waste material valorization, she has also dabbled in research on exoplanets, cancer cell-targeting aptamers, and green infrastructure. Paloma supports nonprofits in New Haven, CT and Valdivia, Chile in environmental education, water remediation, and grant writing efforts. She is currently collaborating with local organizations to develop an alternative insulation, brick, and panel material made from Japanese knotweed-fed mycelium. Her research and poetry are published in the Journal of the American Association of Variable Star Observers, New Constellations Magazine, the New York Times, and In her free time, Paloma enjoys reading classics, hiking, and playing the violin with local orchestras.

Byron Garcia

Byron Garcia is the CEO of Natural Designs LLC a Biomimicry consulting business focused on bringing the meme of Biomimicry to Vermont and nationally. The raison de etra for Byron is to bring awareness to the genius on the natural world to companies with design challenges to demonstrate how we can learn from nature. Some of Byron’s accomplishments involve narrating a nature documentary for Tropenbos Indonesia, being a Guest Speaker for the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and developing a biomimicry curriculum. He attended ASU (Arizona State University) for a masters in Biomimicry and Sterling College for a B.A. in Conservation ecology. Byron’s hobbies include being active outside through hiking, canoeing, camping and practicing gardening that improves the land for both human needs and other organisms we share the biosphere with.

Bruno Márquez

Bruno Márquez is an architect-naturalist and co-founder of the architecture firm Rizoma. Born in Chile, he holds a Bachelor and Master’s degree in Architecture (2016 and 2019) at the Pontifical Catholic University of Valparaiso. He is currently a PhD candidate in Architecture at the University of Porto where he is developing a methodology for architectural interventions in natural contexts. His goal is to generate a more sustainable architecture based on transdisciplinary work and biomimicry to contribute to the conservation of biodiversity, seeking to enhance the knowledge and relationships between humans and nature. He has carried out projects and published several papers where he proposes the vision of architecture in cohabitation. He enjoys working in carpentry, spending time outdoors exploring nature, hiking, drawing and taking pictures.

Meryem Erisen

Meryem Erisen is an urban planner and ecological designer, and has been working as a performing artist since 2014. She is working on different ways of artistic expressions of the human-nature connection. She is an environmentalist and vegan for 6 years and is enthusiastic to explore and apply zero-waste solutions for daily life. Currently, she is exploring entrepreneurship with a new business to develop and lead projects on urban sustainability in her hometown of Istanbul, Turkey.

Elke Solot

Elke developed an interest in Biomimicry after attending a talk given to her by the Biomimicry South Africa team at the University of Cape Town. She strove to combine her passion for Mechanical engineering and Biomimicry which culminated in her completing her Masters degree at TU Delft University in the Netherlands in High-Tech Engineering. During her thesis she focused on trying to improve the traction of a nano hexapod lunar rover (Lunar Zebro) using a Biomimicry Design approach. The results were interesting and her work has made the Lunar Zebro team consider new approaches to the design of the Lunar Zebro. Having recently graduated she has started working as a Body Designer at Toyota and aims to continue applying biomimicry to her work and to bring an alternative and exciting way of thinking to the table.

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