I earned my PhD in Environmental Science, Policy and Management in the College of Natural Resources at the University of California, Berkeley, with a designated emphasis in Science, Technology and Society (STS). I have also been a fellow of the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program and the Berkeley Connect Program for mentoring undergraduates in environmental studies and careers. My disciplinary focus combines the analytic lenses of science and technology studies, political ecology, governance studies, and public health to critically examine contemporary problems at the nexus of people and nature, an area to be explored in digestible chunks in my blog.
In addition to academic pursuits, I enjoy spending time with my family, especially cooking and traveling together. When not at home or on campus, you can find me practicing “on the mat” with the Cal Yongmudo Club, part of the University of California Martial Arts Program, where I train and instruct as a 2nd-degree black belt.
I previously worked as a research associate at the Institute of Medicine and as a research assistant at the National Research Council of the The National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC. In these capacities, I facilitated the work of interdisciplinary scientific advisory panels addressing pressing national challenge areas including the hidden costs of energy, toxic substance exposure guidelines, groundwater contamination at military bases, smoking among military veterans, and the physical, psychological, and social readjustment needs of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Prior to my time at the Academies, I interned with the Union of Concerned Scientists in their Scientific Integrity Program. I earned my A.B. in Environmental Science and Public Policy with a citation in Spanish language from Harvard University in 2007.
Growing up at the urban-rural boundary on the far outskirts of Chicago, I experienced suburban sprawl expand like a great wave to engulf my county. Hundreds of acres of forest and farmland fell to bull-dozers, and drab shopping malls and subdivisions sprang up in their place. Today, the once quiet intersection near our home is a bustling hub filled with auto dealers, chain restaurants, and purveyors of all manner of consumer goods from cell phones to crafts. While this change has brought new entertainment, shopping, and employment opportunities to the area, it came at great cost. I remember vividly the day workers cut down the stand of 200-year-old oak trees across the street from my home to prepare the way for a Menards hardware store. As part of that same development project, our town used eminent domain to take some of my parents’ land to expand our quiet one-lane road into a semi-truck route for the nearby industrial park. Experiencing just a taste of the destructive, and seemingly blind, route that human expansion and progress can take propelled me toward a career in interdisciplinary environmental studies and a search for more responsible, equitable, and constructive practices for human livelihood.
Environmental discourse frequently fixates on the technological imperative for solving our problems with nature—if only we can develop more efficient cars, a smarter electricity grid, bioengineered crops, or fusion power we can fix the planet. Each development exudes near-endless promise and potential, but fixation on the technical gives insufficient credence to the critical question of how people do and should relate with the environment and each other, and how we can leverage the most abundant resource we have: human creativity. Over a decade ago, E.O. Wilson wrote: “We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely.” Today’s global social-environmental challenges require problem-driven approaches capable of weaving together knowledge from the full range of human experience. But we need not just synthesizers, but also mediators who can translate between divergent worldviews and facilitate collaboration among a diverse array of people. We need people with both wisdom and empathy to navigate the complex nexus of society and environment and process insights from the journey. The best way I can think to describe my position in all of this is as another traveler on this path.