Elizabeth Ariadne Lagesse
Education, job history, fellowships, and awards
Volunteer work, leadership, and community involvement
Examples of scientific work, writing, public speaking, and more
A bit of backstory
At first glance, my personal history doesn’t seem conducive to work as a skeptic, scientist, and advocate for social justice. Much of my research has been rooted in the intricacies of evolutionary theory, yet as a child I was taught that modern biology is an elaborate hoax. The origins and scope of our universe have captivated me for as long as I can remember - in spite of science classes that contradicted much of modern cosmology, geology, and biology. Even the moral framework that motivates my advocacy is not the one in which I was raised.
These experiences have contributed to my determination to use my technical and scientific skills in support of causes that matter. I have spent much of my adult life as a community activist promoting skepticism, diversity in STEM, and public science literacy. Moving forward, my overall goal is to make the greatest possible impact as an evidence-based advocate for a better world.
Becoming a scientist
My introduction to scientific research involved using bioinformatics to study the evolution of a protein family. This experience was an incredibly valuable introduction to the process of answering scientific questions, and an opportunity to learn the programming skills that have made the rest of my work possible.Because evolution is an unguided search - which tends to find ‘good enough’ solutions rather than optimal ones - evolutionary insight can often lead to functional insight. In the case of the protein family I studied, there is an alternative form of the protein without the ‘on switch’ - creating a safeguard against developmental abnormalities and cancer.
To further develop my skills in bench chemistry and experimental design, I joined a protein bioengineering lab. My goal was to uncover the structure of a viral protein, which also had chemical properties that show promise for engineering drug delivery nanoparticles.
My recent research has involved one of today's most difficult computational problems: protein structure prediction. Many devastating diseases, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, are related to defects in protein structure. Bacterial resistance to antibiotics can also be caused by a critical change in protein structure.
In addition to the human costs of these issues, the problems themselves are innately irresistible - with solutions that require a combination of chemical intuition, clever computation, and an understanding of the protein’s evolutionary past. With an international team of scientists and engineers, I helped build and use a suite of software to predict protein structure and design synthetic molecules.
Beyond the satisfaction of working on fascinating and important problems, my scientific experiences left me with a broad base of technical and intellectual skills for tackling hard problems in any context.
Samples of writing, speaking, graphics, and more
Education, Awards, and Experience
Graduate Research Assistant, Gray Lab; Johns Hopkins University. – 2015-2016
Python Tutor, UC Santa Cruz – 2014
Senior Thesis Research, DuBois Lab; UC Santa Cruz – 2013-2014
NSF Summer REU Fellow, SFSU “Biological Research in Ecology, Evolution, and Development” – 2012 (returned, summer 2013)
Chemistry Tutor, City College of San Francisco – 2011-2012
Education and awards
Chemistry (BS), University of California, Santa Cruz – 2014
Organizer: Rosetta Commons at the 2016 Grace Hopper Celebration
Preparing outreach materials and coordinating attendees for the Rosetta Commons presence at Grace Hopper - a conference to promote the inclusion of women in computing
Policy Advocacy: Increasing diversity in STEM
Visiting the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy with a delegation of Johns Hopkins students and faculty to advocate for programs that increase the inclusivity of STEM fields
Volunteer: 2016 Animal Rights National Conference
Assisting the conference team with audio/visual, registration, and other assorted tasks
Outreach Team: Women in Science and Engineering at UC Santa Cruz
Visiting local schools to perform demonstrations and encourage students from all backgrounds to pursue careers in science and technology
Founder/President: Chico Skeptics
Building and maintaining an organization for the promotion of science, skepticism, and critical thinking through camaraderie and positive contributions to the wider community
Activity Development Task Force: Camp Quest West
Developing curricula for a children’s summer camp focusing on science, critical thinking, environmentalism, and ethics
Vice President: Secular Student Alliance at UC Santa Cruz
Building a student community for humanists, atheists, agnostics, and others with a naturalistic worldview
Tutor: Berkeley United in Literacy Development
Promoting literacy in Oakland and Berkeley elementary schools through after school programs focused on building students’ basic math and reading skills
Photos from Occupy, European Anti-Austerity Protests, Homeopathy Awareness, and the Baltimore Uprising/Black Lives Matter
All photography is the work of the author.
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.