Night comes early in October. Colorful leaves give way to cold dark nights and scary creatures hide in dark alleys, ready to pounce on unwary pedestrians. But I grew up in the era of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so Halloween-style monsters don't frighten me. It’s the changing climate that keeps me up at night. Vampires are nothing; I want people who can slay methane and CO2.
After the reading about the 2018 report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, I’m afraid our time to fight climate change is running out. Just as October hurricanes preview a world with more powerful storms, the storm surges let us glimpse the changes accompanying a rising sea. None of the scenarios are pleasant.
One of the reasons I find biotechnology education to be so important is that biotechnology might give us a way out. Biotech innovations might provide a means to pull carbon dioxide and methane out of the atmosphere and slow down the march towards a really scary world, with rising temperatures, rising sea levels, and general chaos.
Coincidentally, or maybe not, two contests are underway that relate to big ideas and global challenges. These are the NSF 2026 Idea Machine and the NASA CO2 Conversion Challenge.
The National Science Foundation’s 2026 Idea Machine competition offers a chance for researchers, the public, and others to contribute to NSF's mission to support basic research and enable new discoveries that drive the U.S. economy, enhance national security and advance knowledge to sustain the country's global leadership in science and engineering. This competition is open to everyone, but you have to contribute your big idea before October 26th.
NASA’s CO2 Conversion challenge tackles the problem of converting carbon dioxide to glucose during a future trip to Mars. NASA is looking for ways to take CO2 from the air and make food for microbial bioreactors. Sure, plants can do this. But if we are to travel successfully to Mars, we’ll need a fancier technology than growing plants in space. NASA doesn’t say this on their website, but it seems, with our rising CO2 levels, the same technology might find an application here on spaceship Earth. Anyone can participate in this challenge, but I think this competition would be great for teams of biotech students.
Biotech students, faculty, and researchers, the world needs climate change slayers. It’s up to you.
Sandra Porter, PhD
PI, A Bridge to Bio-Link's Future