July 27, 2021
SBIO would like to congratulate Kiara Scott, who is one of the recipients of the fall 2020 Bryan W. Graeser Memorial Scholarship! She is a senior in the Creating a Sustainable Society track of the Sustainable Biomaterials major. Kiara is from Virginia Beach, VA and transferred to Virginia Tech from the Tidewater Community College at the beginning of her sophomore year.
Kiara told us that while studying at the community college she was initially on an engineering track but decided that our department offered the sustainability focus she really wanted. “After searching through VT’s different departments, I discovered the College of Natural Resources and Environment. After looking through the different majors available, I came across Sustainable Biomaterials and realized that this major was more aligned with my interests and goals of sustainability which some engineering degrees don’t focus on as much. I tried seeing if any major like this existed at any other school in Virginia and it turns out it is unique to VT, so from there I had my sights set on transferring after my first year at community college.”
Kiara told us, the “most memorable classes I have taken so far are Dr. Zink-Sharp’s SBIO 2124 Structures and Properties of Sustainable Biomaterials and Dr. Bond’s SBIO 3524 Manufacturing Sustainable Biomaterials for Structures.” She feels that both classes gave a wide range of information about many different things. Kiara said they “introduced me to concepts and ideas that have helped expand my general knowledge as well as hone in on specific interests in regards to my life and career path. One of my favorite parts about Dr. Zink-Sharp’s class was, the lab in which we memorized the cross sections of around 30 different kinds of trees. This exposed me to the intricacies of the natural world that we do not often think about, and it inspired me to want to learn more about the identification of the various kinds of life that exist in the world around us.” Kiara then went on to tell us that “Dr. Bond’s class introduced me to the different methods of using many kinds of sustainable biomaterials including one of my favorites, mycelium! That interest has led me to learn more about the interesting world of mushrooms and how useful they are in so many different aspects from food to medicine to a building resource!”
It is not only the classes that Kiara has enjoyed during her time in our department. She feels that “the close-knit community, college and department events, and the amazing professors and staff have created such a welcoming environment that I’m sure is unlike any other at VT. Having a personal relationship with professors who want to help you succeed is so meaningful in times when even the most difficult classes bring you down. And the advisors that get to know you personally and watch you grow throughout your time here really help build a strong and consistent relationship when it feels like every semester you are starting things over from scratch. My advisor, Dana McGuire, has helped me tremendously throughout my time so far. From changing my specific SBIO major track (twice) to figuring out how to best adjust my class schedules when external factors get in the way, Dana has always had my best interests in mind because she takes the time to get to know me, my goals, and create that personal relationship. Her help and understanding, as well as all the advisors in CNRE help guide us to the right people, places, and resources when we don’t know where to turn next.”
Kiara let us know that her career goals have shifted during her time here at Virginia Tech, and she is sure they will change more after she graduates and actually begins working. Kiara came into SBIO wanting to work on the development of bio-degradable alternatives to single-use plastics and Styrofoam, but soon realized that a lab environment was not meant for her. “After taking FREC 2554: Leading Global Sustainability taught by Dr. Hull, I learned about how inefficient and threatened our world’s water and food systems are. Food has always been a very important part of my life and discovering that 40% of produce grown on farms is thrown away before it can reach a table was shocking to me when there are so many people in communities that have little access to fresh fruits and vegetables. This sparked a fire in me, and I am now focused on finding ways to improve food systems by reducing food waste and supporting local food movements.”
Kiara currently has two internships this summer before going into her senior year. Both are related to food production and distribution. The first one is at VT’s Catawba Sustainability Center and allows her to farm the land and learn from the manager, Adam Taylor, about the basics of how organic food can be grown and maintained sustainably. The second is with the nonprofit organization LEAP (Local Environmental Agriculture Program) in Roanoke where she gets to “help with the LEAP Mobile Market, a truck which drives around different communities and neighborhoods and sells fresh, local produce to areas that don’t have easy access to this kind of food. I hope that in the future I can continue to work with organizations with similar goals and continue to help inform people of the ongoing issues related to our food systems.”
Kiara says she would advise new students, as well as any other students, to be open to new knowledge and experiences and let the things that interest you be your guide. She advises, “Listen to yourself; when something that you thought you would like isn’t working or is stressing you out or just simply doesn’t interest you anymore, try something new that you think could work and does interest you! “Failure” to enjoy something means you are one step closer to finding the things you do enjoy! Look at the world with critical eyes and if you are moved by something in particular like I was. Find the small ways you can get connected to it and see where those new connections take you. Your first idea of a dream career likely won’t be the career you stick with for the rest of your life, and that’s great! Learning about and trying new things allows you to build your experience which will give you more knowledge that you can apply to your next endeavor! Stay connected to those around you and don’t hesitate to communicate, especially with professors or others who may have connections to those new things that may interest you! Overall, seek out the resources that are available to you and let your own curiosity be your guide!”