Hi everyone! Wonderful to meet you/see you again! My name is Rachel. I am a 16 y/o activator at TKS working on leveraging biotech to improve yields and livelihoods for small holder farmers in rural Malawi. A little about me: I want to actually help people around the world, reduce global suffering and have a large social impact. I’m the cohost of the TechnoGypsie Podcast, and an ultra runner obsessed with pushing my personal limits and finding out what I’m truly capable of.
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Speaking at SXSW
As I am writing this, I am sitting in the Austin, Texas, airport waiting to board my flight back home to Thunder Bay, trying to digest the craziness of the past 6 days. It has been a whirlwind of incredible memories, experiences and emotions. I could talk for days about my time at SXSW, but I want to highlight my favorite parts and largest takeaways of the conference:
Speaking on stage was a crazy experience that I wish I could relive. I never thought I’d be saying this, but I loved every minute of it. I was envisioning myself as a basket case of nerves backstage- but instead I found myself excited to walk on stage, and was in my element sharing my passion for CRISPR and agriculture to an engaged audience.
It was an interesting experience preparing to give this talk - late night feedback calls with friends, stressful mornings grinding out storyboards, presentation practice in front of my little sister, and every emotion from stress to anxiety to excitement. It was my first time being giving 12 minute on stage, and I got to choose how I crafted this time into a talk I was proud of. This was extremely exhilarating, but equally nerve wracking, and balancing these two emotions was a task I never quite achieved. I will be writing an article (similar in style to the article I wrote about running an ultramarathon) about my experience preparing for and giving my talk, so stay tuned for that.
Make sure you check out the recording of my SXSW talk here!
On my last night in Austin, I was invited to a dinner hosted by TKS with educators and principles in the Austin area (to spread the word of TKS’s new in-person program in Austin). At dinner I was asked what my favorite part of TKS is, and without hesitating I said the community. This supportive TKS family of young people around the world cheer each other on, care so much about each others personal and professional growth and are interested in the same nerdy things.
And looking back on South By, it is the nine other TKS students and directors I was living with that made the experience so unforgettable. Long evening Mafia games, late night talks, lunches in the sun and a networking buddy that hypes you up. Spending time with friends in person again, meeting friends for the first time in person and making new friends was without a doubt the highlight of my time at SXSW.
Massive massive thank you to the incredible friends that I had the privilege of spending the week with: Tobias, Vinaya, Sofia, Alex, Zaydan, Valkyrie, Tina, Emma and Jacob, and to the amazing directors who hype us up: Ian, Damian, Una, Kim, Andrés, and to Navid and Nadeem for all their feedback.
I met so many cool people at SXSW - founders, CEOs, scientists and everyone in between. I am lucky enough to have spoken with Arama Kukutai, the CEO of Plenty, Uma Valeti, the founder and CEO of UPSIDE Foods, Jay Crotts, the CIO of Shell, Mary Mitkish, program lead at Nasa Harvest Consortium and countless other people working to solve hard problems in the world (several who are now receiving this newsletter 😉).
It was an amazing feeling to wake up and spend the day talking with people who are literally changing the world. Wake up, talk with cool people, sleep, repeat [with lots of good food sprinkled in between] - this was my daily routine at SXSW, and it was epic. I learned so much from the many conversations I had, and am still inspired about the cool projects that the people I met are working on. (Stay tuned for exciting new podcast episodes with people I met at SXSW!)
Exciting announcement! Ciara and I are rebranding our podcast from The TechnoGypsie Podcast to the Luminexus Podcast! The two words we chose to represent the message of our podcast is luminary, and nexus. When these words are combined, you get Luminexus, a podcast where we shine light on emerging technologies to impact the most pressing problems of our time. We talk with leading researchers, scientists, innovators and thought leaders about the role of emerging sciences and technologies to solve problems like world hunger and climate change, and connect the dots between each of these problems and solutions to create an exponentially brighter future.
I have been working behind the scenes on a new podcast to mark this exciting rebrand, so stay tuned next month where I’ll share the new website!
Sea of green [hydroponics update]
When I left March 10th for Austin, the lettuce on my little farm looked like this:
When I came back 10 days later I could no longer see the PVC pipes. The lettuce had bolted up and was ready to harvest - instead of seeing large gaps with grey pipe, my eyes were thrown into a sea of green leaves:
It has been a journey of trial and error to get the right water flow in the pipes, and the best growing medium. And it’s exciting, because I feel like I’ve finally achieved a flow state with my little hydroponics farm - I have found nutrients that work well, adjusted for the perfect water flow and established the ideal distance from the lettuce to the grow lights.
I plan on writing an article and making a video about my hydroponics farm in the next few weeks, so keep you eyes out for that if you want to learn more about the technicalities of building and operating this system, or if you’re just curious how to build your own hydroponics farm!
Other cool things
I was interviewed by Inside Quantum Technology News on my journey as a female in deep science and tech, going from not knowing what a quantum computer was, to teaching others about the technology and speaking with quantum researchers. You can read the interview here!
Over the course of March I worked with Apoorva, Serjan and Noémie on a one month innovation challenge (with CAE) to find a new industry CAE can venture into with it’s current expertise. My team and I zeroed into natural disaster simulations, and found that there is a rising $14.3 billion market for natural disaster mitigation. You can read our proposal (and more about the problem and opportunity) on our slide deck!
I was featured in a STEM webinar STEM put on by Experiences Canada. I spoke about my maize project and work in CRISPR and agriculture alongside three other phenomenal TKS students speaking about their projects in AI, alternative energy and other disruptive areas. Thank you to Experiences Canada and Damian from TKS for inviting me to be a speaker at the webinar - I had a lot of fun! (I will share the recording of my presentation next month!)
I am excited to be starting the TKS Earthshot challenge for the next month. Earthshot focuses on solving problems that should have been solved 10 years ago. It forces us to go deep on a problem that exists in the world, and develop a roadmap for how we can make a meaningful contribution to solve that problem in the next 1-2 years. I am extremely excited about this because solving real problems is why I joined activate and I am deeply motivated to move the needle on these massive problems like food insecurity and poverty. Earthshots just started last weekend, and my team is focusing on the problem of access to clean water in Haiti. A lot more info to come on this next month, but as a bit of a primer, 52% of the total population of Haiti do not have access to clean drinking water. This is a massive problem that I am excited to research deeply and hopefully create a viable solution to tangibly address this problem.
Marathon training continues! My training was put on hold for a little over a week while I was at SXSW, and coming home and continuing training has been the best feeling in the world. I will be travelling to Ottawa at the end of May to run my 2nd Tartan Ottawa Marathon! This marathon training block has been much different than my training last year - I am focused on speed for my current training (to achieve the 3:15 marathon I am aiming for), oppose to last year where I was focused on milage and prepping my legs to run 42.2km.
And that, my friends, is what I have been up to this month! Thank you for sticking with me till the end! I hope that you have had a wonderful past few months, and are enjoying the first signs of spring. See you all in April! 🌻🌱☀️
Thanks for reading! ❤️Rachel
Personal website, LinkedIn, Medium, YouTube
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Awesome, Rachel!! Thanks for posting your talk from SXSW, I loved getting to watch it 💗
It’s so incredible to see the progress through the passion and dedication Rachel puts into her work, to her presenting it at SXSW - no one was more well deserved