Student Ambassador Meg Waite – Blending Science and Innovation

December 7, 2020

Meg Waite
Meg Waite holds edible mushrooms. Photo courtesy of Meg Waite.

If you have noticed the very cool ICE Jam graphics, then you have noticed just some of the work Meg Waite does for Center ICE.

Meg is considered a non-traditional student. She graduated from high school in 2013 and started her undergraduate studies in 2020. She spent the years between pursuing passions for creating art and adventuring outdoors.

But when Meg felt she hit a wall in both of those pursuits she started looking more at the natural world around her. One of the things that troubled her was knowing that her outdoor gear and clothing were made from petroleum-based products.

“I started to become very curious of what things are made of and how things are made,” says Waite. She also noticed how “mushrooms and other kinds of tiny little microbial types of organisms are very much alive and very busy and doing all of these fun things, and I wanted to learn more about them.”

Meg joined the 2020 Students2Startups cohort and turned her new interest into an innovative product idea and a focus of her studies.

“I met some really fun mushroom enthusiasts — mycophiles — and we wanted to play around with this idea of developing mushroom nutraceutical products,” she added.

Meg is in her first semester at UAF studying microbiology with an emphasis in mycology, and she’s very, very passionate about biomaterials, especially their use in the building industry. She is also very creative.

After the S2S internship, she was hired by Center ICE as a student ambassador focusing on creating the ICE Jam series with Nigel Sharp and fellow innovator and student ambassador Solomon Himelbloom.

“We've been just trying to create an online space for people to come and have conversations if they have ideas or they want to learn how to get funded for their projects,” she said.

Many of the ICE Jam participants have been from computer science areas. However, Meg believes there's space for other science disciplines in innovation and she wants people to think of how research areas and ideas can be blended together creatively.

Meg hopes to reconnect with her fellow mycophile team, including fellow S2S intern Angie Mendbayer, and see where the Juneau-based innovator has gone with the mushroom idea they created. She says the timing might not have been perfect for their idea.

“It's okay for things to kind of not work out, is what I am learning.” Meg adds that Mendbayer has been very supportive about her changes in focus. Having a degree in microbiology is not important to being interested and passionate about mushrooms, but for what she wants to do with them, blending material science with mushrooms, it’s a really good place to start.

Until then, Center ICE is appreciative of the work Meg has produced and is excited see her remain involved in the team.