Charles Parrish Raleigh, N.C. / 24 Biological Engineering BS, 2015 North Carolina State University ASABE Student Member As a junior in biological sciences, I encountered the concept of biomimicry: applying natural solutions to human design challenges. After all, Mother Nature maintains a 3.7 billion-year track record iterating “endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful,” as Darwin said. Realizing that I wanted to translate my knowledge of biological patterns into designs for regenerative systems, I changed majors to bio engineering. My degree transfer was validated when I was selected for a NC Space Grant Scholarship to intern with the Advanced Life Support Group at NASA Kennedy Space Center. Our project focused on developing rapid pathogen detection and sanitation protocols for the Vegetable Production Unit (Veggie), in which astronauts grow fresh produce aboard the International Space Station. To determine methods for optimal pathogen detection and reduction in a microgravity environment, we employed molecular biology techniques including microbial culturing, DNA extraction, and real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction. A second NCSG scholarship funded my internship in bio and ag engineering at NC State to design an anaerobic digester, a bioreactor that utilizes microbes to process biomass into biofuel and fertilizer, for planetary surface habitat life support. My subsequent senior design project involved bench-scale experiments to evaluate biogas yield for simulated inputs under certain conditions. This past July our senior design team attended the ASABE annual meeting in New Orleans, where I presented our first paper on the project. I plan to pursue a graduate degree in bio engineering or a similar field. I’ve found meaning in bio engineering, and I aim to continue performing work to improve our sustainability on Earth while preparing for the “next giant leap” for humankind.
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