We Met Dr. Erika DeBenedictis Today!

You thought today was just going to be another fun (but tiring) day filled with lectures, lab work, and autoclaving? YOU THOUGHT WRONG. 

Today was extra special because (drumroll please) … 

We had our first guest speaker! 

The guest speaker today was Dr. Erika DeBenedictis (as you’ve read in the title). She is a computational physicist and synthetic biologist. She received a BS in Computer Science from Caltech and then her PhD in Biological Engineering from MIT. She completed her postdoc in David Baker’s lab and also worked in various labs. 

She started her own project not too long ago too: the Bioautomation Challenge. It is her own grant foundation that gives grants to people to run their experiments in labs where everything could be run fully remote. These labs are called cloud labs. These cloud labs lessens the chance of contamination and also gives brilliant but under-resourced people the chance to run experiments.  

But before all of that, did you know she was an SSPer :0? She attended the astrophysics program when she was in highschool too. She mentioned that she still keeps in touch with her friends from SSP, and that one memorable memory she has was this experiment that showed how our senses are more accurate than we realize. They had someone rub their hands on one glass of water and another glass remained untouched. Then, they had someone else smell the glasses and make a guess on which one had hand juice on it. They guessed correctly. 

Moving along ~

Dr. DeBenedictis gave an amazing lecture that basically explained her two papers, Enabling high-throughput biology with flexible open-source automation and Systematic molecular evolution enables robust biomolecule discovery, in an intriguing and entertaining way. She then talked about cloud labs and with great energy, answered all of our questions.  

After the lecture, we had a reception where we ate snacks and gathered around Dr. DeBenedictis to hear her talk.

(By the way, I really liked the M&M cookies)

After that, we went to dinner! 

I (quite fortunately) sat at the table with Dr. DeBenedictis. Our table had really invigorating conversations with her. Some of her hobbies that she mentioned included visiting deserts and tango. She showed us these really fancy tango shoes she got. 

After dinner, a group of us walked and talked with her until she had to turn another way to go back to her hotel. 


So to summarize, today was a day I will remember for a long time. 


About Me ~

Hi 🙂 

My name is Joy and I am a rising senior from Louisiana. In my free time, I like to swim, crochet, eat jello, and only OCCASIONALLY play Pokemon Go. I really want to go ice swimming in Finland or Norway and visit the Black Sea one day. At this exact moment I am writing this, there is a baby intensely staring at me…looking deep into my soul… seeking for… something it has lost…