Say hello to Julie Sesen, PhD, Research Scientist at the Boston Children’s Hospital, Leader of BCH Green Labs, and one of our My Green Lab Ambassadors! Originally from Toulouse, the “Pink City” in France, Julie now calls Boston home after crossing the Atlantic in 2017 to do her Postdoc at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Along with her research, Julie is a fierce advocate for lab sustainability. After completing the My Green Lab Ambassador program, she worked to obtain our Green Lab Certification for her lab and formed the Boston Children’s Hospital Green Labs group to motivate others to become more sustainable.
“In addition to giving me all the clues to succeed in my future endeavors, the My Green Lab Ambassador program allows me to extend my connections and meet with people all over the world who care about lab sustainability. Extending this network is crucial to learning new ideas and hearing innovative strategies to make labs greener,” says Julie.
Read on to learn more about Julie and her sustainability journey below!
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I come from Toulouse, the “Pink City,” in the Southwest of France. I completed my master’s degree from the Paul Sabatier University of Toulouse and my PhD thesis on the role of the eukaryotic initiation translation factor, eIF3e on glioblastoma radioresistance. Then I crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 2017 to do my Postdoc at the Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) in the Vascular Biology Program. Under the supervision of Dr. Edward Smith, I studied the role of Axon Guidance Factors in Pediatric Brain Tumors and Cerebrovascular Diseases.
In 2020, during the pandemic, I started to do my research on lab sustainability, and I discovered the videos of Allison Paradise, Founder and former CEO of My Green Lab. I was so inspired by her talks and wanted to learn everything on how to green my lab! I then entered the My Green Lab Ambassador Program and watched the educational videos. I followed Allison’s recommendations and started a conversation at lab meetings about being more sustainable. People picked up quickly and were very engaged to make efforts. Seeing people so engaged drove me to act at a larger scale, so I connected with the Research Lab Support that reunites Environmental Services Department (ESD), Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S), Facilities, Engineering, Supply Chain at BCH.
With another postdoc, Stephanie Ragland who used a similar approach, we wanted to understand where BCH stands in terms of lab sustainability and share some ideas. In the meantime, I decided to get my lab certified by My Green Lab and we obtained the highest level of certification, the “Green” level! I am very proud of this achievement, and I thank my colleagues for their involvement. While I was going through all the questions for the evaluation, I realized that some work has already been done at Children’s to be more sustainable, like upgrading the lighting to LED, installing light sensors in every building, completing building air balancing projects, maintaining a chemical inventory by building… Filling up the My Green Lab questionnaire was really helpful to evaluate what was done and identify the gaps.
Inspired by new ideas, we talked around us and started to gather a team of motivated postdocs and grad students to form the BCH Green Labs. We are now 12 major contributors and have a clear action plan. We are moving slowly but surely as we implement new initiatives.
What drives you to be more sustainable in the laboratory?
I have always been concerned by the amount of plastic and waste I produce in the lab and by the lights and equipment always kept on, but the pandemic really encouraged me to act. Indeed, with the unavoidable need of single-use plastic production and usage (masks, vaccination, vaccine production, COVID-19 testing…), I decided to make efforts on my side to reduce my carbon footprint and hoped others would do the same. Now that I am educated on lab sustainability and know how to react, I feel this is good practice and has become common sense. I would never leave the lab without turning off the lights and safe equipment if I am last, or not question myself on how to dispose of my waste.
What is the most interesting thing you learned while becoming a My Green Lab Ambassador?
Thanks to the My Green Lab Ambassador program, I learned the basis of lab sustainability and how to identify the areas to tackle. At first, we are all interested in recycling methods because we would like to find a solution for all the plastic waste we are producing – this is visible and quantifiable, but thanks to the program, I understood that recycling is not the easiest effort to focus on and does not represent the biggest carbon footprint as opposed to energy use, for example, which can be as simple as turning off the lights and equipment overnight to make an impact.
How has the My Green Lab Ambassador Program enriched your sustainability journey?
In addition to giving me all the clues to succeed in my future endeavor, the My Green Lab Ambassador program allows me to extend my connections and meet with people all over the world who care about lab sustainability. Extending this network is crucial to learning new ideas and hearing innovative strategies to make labs greener. It is very inspiring to hear people’s experiences, everybody is generous and passionate - I did not expect that, and it is very motivating!
What are your 2021/2022 sustainability goals?
For 2021-2022, I wish to build a sustainable BCH Green Labs, keeping and extending our motivated team and together work on projects such as:
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