06/21/21 Three USC Architecture Students Named Finalists at Biodesign Challenge Summit 2021


MLA+U students Ana Mangino and Andrea Binz and geodesign student Zoe Lee will present their project as finalists at the Biodesign Challenge Summit 2021, June 21-25. They’ll join 52 teams from 20 countries who have spent their semesters developing ideas that bridge art, design, and biology to reimagine a more sustainable and equitable future.

The USC Architecture team’s project, Looking Back: The 2080 Los Angeles Arsenic Crisis and Operation Porifera, comes out of a biodesign course taught by Dr. Aroussiak Gabrielian. In this course, students were challenged to think beyond traditional human-centric views of the biophysical world and our role in it by sustained research on a single marine organism throughout the semester. The team chose the sponge and were fascinated by scientific literature regarding their resilience, biomonitoring capabilities, and ability to neutralize certain contaminants. The team of three said they analyzed “how we could magnify the unique abilities of the sponge and what it would mean to live in true symbiosis with this organism in a speculative design scenario.”

Throughout the project, the team integrated design and science together with a sense of playfulness and creativity to allow for “the creation of a scenario that was both highly imaginative, but also highly plausible under a given set of circumstances. We combined emerging scientific research, current events, and speculative design to envision a future scenario that could be experienced through website and podcast form.”

Over 60 leading experts in academia, industry, and the arts will judge and award prizes at the annual Summit. This year’s sponsored prizes include the Barilla Prize for Regenerative Living Ecosystems and the Science Sandbox Prize for Public Engagement.

Summit speakers include Janina Jeff, geneticist and host of the podcast In Those Genes; Kathy High, artist, curator, and scholar of bioart; and Lisa Margonelli, author and senior editor of Issues in Science and Technology. Speakers will give their talks on Friday, June 25. 

The Biodesign Challenge (BDC) is an international student competition and educational program that partners high school and university students with artists, designers, and scientists to imagine, create, and critique the future of biotechnology. During the academic year, students develop bold and feasible projects that use biotechnology to address pressing issues or to critique biotechnology’s impact on society. BDC aims to foster the first generation of biodesigners who use the life sciences as a tool to create and critique applications of biotechnology. The students come from across disciplines to explore the ethical implications of current and future biotech. 


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