For Laura Boykin, Computational Biologist and African Cassava Whitefly Project (ACWP) partner from the University of Western Australia, 2015 has been a hectic year. If ever a hurricane were to blow over the cassava fields of eastern Africa, its name would be Laura – not because of its destructive quality, rather to match the unstoppable force that Dr. Boykin represents. In addition to the great work that Laura is carrying out with her team on taxonomy and the systematics of whitefly species using genomics and supercomputing, Laura has taken the media world by storm.
She first erupted onto the world stage back in March, as she gave a TED talk about supercomputing, genomics, phylogenetics and the ACWP. As Laura said in the summer of 2015, “With TED, I have only had positive experiences and I know it's just the beginning” – prophetic words – for since then, this talk, an awesome achievement in itself, catapulted Laura into a whirlwind of high-level speeches and media appearances, time and again bringing light to the story of cassava farmers in east Africa struggling to eat, crops plagued by whitefly and diseases, and how the work of the ACWP is tackling the problem.
Impressively, Laura presented our Project to the United Nations headquarters in New York, as part of their 'Solutions Summit' in September – a 'catalytic gathering highlighting breakthrough solutions for achieving the new Sustainable Development Goals'. In November, Laura took once more to the TED stage, as part of TEDx – the 'x' means an 'independently organised' TED event, in Perth, Western Australia.
Laura and our whitefly story have been featured in blogs, articles, podcasts and interviews, by sources including the United Nations, the White House, Scientific American, TED, and the University of New Mexico, Laura's alma mater. She is described as inspirational and a world-changer...in one article she was named a 'Badass Scientist'. She also won first prize as a 'Rising star' at the University of Western Australia. In short, Laura Boykin is a force of nature to be reckoned with and her mission is our mission – making the African Cassava Whitefly Project a huge success and truly improving the lives of the 7,000,000 farmers we are aiming to help.
A full list and links to Laura's presentations, news stories, blog posts and media appearances can be found on the news section of her website.