In January UWA Senior Research Fellow Laura Boykin was named the first Australian-based Senior TED Fellow - one of just 10 selected worldwide for the 2017 program.
The Arizona native has been at UWA since 2012 working hard with her dedicated team and collaborators to save cassava, a crop that feeds 500 million people in East Africa, from pests and disease.
“Cassava is a food staple that feeds 500 million people in East Africa. Smallholder farmer rely on it for their daily calorie intake but crops are dying at alarming rates due to viruses and insect pests,” Laura says.
Saving cassava is no mean feat, and one that will hopefully be achieved faster with through connections made with the other TED Fellows.
“TED as a program itself is inspiring and motivating. It’s about coming together and sharing knowledge to help solve problems currently experienced in all facets of society.
“Young people like our students ‘get it’. They’re learning online, and I know it’s a common for young people to watch TED talks because they have a huge appetite for knowledge underpinned with a desire to make the world a better place,” Laura says.
The TED Fellowship Program takes knowledge sharing and collaboration a step further. Fellows are from very broad backgrounds and successful in their own right making it an incredible resource to tap into.
“The magic of the TED Fellows program is that all the Fellows are really supportive of one another and want to help each other out any way they can. This may be through investment, resources, products it depends on the person and their strengths, but that underlying support is there 100%
“A great example of this is my recent trip to Madagascar. This experience was only made possible through being hosted by a TED Fellow, Harinjaka Ratozamanana who is from there,” Laura says.
While Laura is leading this groundbreaking work at UWA, she’s the first to say it wouldn’t be possible without the dedication of her talented team and collaborators.
“My students are amazing. I’m a true believer that diversity in science is what leads to innovation, and my students come from backgrounds where cassava grows.
“Their input into how to solve the issue is invaluable, and they’re gaining scientific research experience they can take back home and use to solve future problems in the region,” she says.
In the meantime, Laura is getting ready to attend the 2017 TED Conference in Vancouver in April, and will no doubt bring even more inspiration back.