Elizabeth Hénaff

“I was born in Austin, Texas, grew up in France, went back to Texas for undergrad, and did my PhD in Barcelona, Spain. NYC is quite different from both Texas and Barcelona, in many ways. Public transportation makes it feel more European than Texas, but it is very much America. I feel privileged that my position in society is to figure out the unknowns of the world around us. I have always been fascinated by figuring out how things work, and living systems are the most fascinating of all.”

Elizabeth holding one of several modular concrete blocks designed to act like sea sponges or corals: nature’s aquatic bioreactors. Elizabeth spent the summer as an Artist in Residence at the Visual Futures lab at the School of Visual Arts, where she is working to build bioreactors to host bacteria from the Gowanus Canal. She hopes to harness the power of evolution to grow these bacteria and enhance their current ability to degrade toxic compounds. Learn more about this super cool bioremediation project, a collaboration between Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, GenSpace, the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, and Landscape Metrics, at BKBioReactor.com.

If you could give one piece of advice to young scientists or students, what would it be?
“Choose a topic that is interesting to you, not necessarily the most fashionable or recent. You have a life time to think about this topic.”

Elizabeth Hénaff is a postdoctoral associate in the Mason Lab at Weill Cornell Medical College. She has made contributions to understanding how plants respond to the force of gravity, how plant genome structure changes in response to stress, and most recently has turned her attention to the ubiquitous and invisible microbial component of our environment. Her interests in biological interactions and beautiful Big Data visualizations have inspired her to create interactive installations, collaborating with artists and musicians.

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