Biology Beyond the Bench: Bugs, Bud and Brew

October in Seattle, and the WIB chapter monthly event focused on other ways in which local businesses are using biology with: Biology beyond the Bench: Bugs, Bud and Brew.

Local women shared their stories and gave advice on how you can transition from a conventional science role, to something wholly different!

Hosted by Co-Motion, Life Science Washington (LSW) and Women in Bio (WIB) put on a panel discussion and networking evening.

After some time to network, panelists shared their scientific journeys, and discussed why a career beyond research and education was so fulfilling.


Left. Sara Luchi, head brewer at Black Raven Brewing. Right. Caitlin Gamble, spirulina synthetic biologist at Lumen Bioscience.


Moderated by Patricia Beckmann of LSW, the event panelists included Caitlin Gamble, Robyn Schumacher, Sara Luchi, Kersten Gaba and Jessica Tonani, whose expertise ranged from brewing to medicinal cannabis products.

One panelist, Caitlin Gamble, touched on an idea that I try to tell myself all the time; pursue your interest, regardless of the destination. There are many times many of us, myself included, have only focused on the bigger picture and don’t give enough thought and time to the question “what will make me happy now?” It isn’t always clear where our lives, never mind our careers, are taking us but by following your interest the path will at least be fun.

Ready and Open to Opportunity was another idea that many of the panel touched on. Jessica Tonani flunked Karate and so was a credit short to graduate. In order to make-up that credit, she got a position in a lab on campus and her genomic career was seeded.

To follow on from that message, another panelist shared this piece of wisdom; Quitting is not the same as failure. Sara Luchi was at culinary school when she decided to give it up, and focus on a career in brewing. Although she wonders what would have happened if she had stayed in school, her job in a brewery brought her more enjoyment. Years later and she’s a head brewer. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Just because you think it’s what you’re supposed to do, it doesn’t mean that you have to do it.


Attendees network with Life Science Washington, Women in Bio and others at Co-Motion


For me, the stand-out message of the event was the Perseverance. Robyn Schumacher discussed that, at a time when she was no longer enjoying her career, she decided to make a new path. By interacting with enough people and being actively involved in the brewing industry, she made a space for herself and is now the co-owner and brewer of a successful brewery. This attitude was echoed by Kersten Gaba. At a time when law was prohibitive of research into medicinal cannabis products, Kersten and her company worked to change that law and helped pass 3 bills.

Each of these women is succeeding in their unconventional career paths by seizing opportunities as they come along, being persistent, and advocating for themselves.


This event felt like a personal milestone to me. Not only did I get to indulge one of my passions by photographing the event, but I got to get involved more in the running of the evening. My long standing personal mission is the championing of others and driving equality. Being so involved with a chapter that strives to empower others is rewarding beyond explanation, and I’m looking forward to being more involved in the future.


For more on the event, see the official WIB coverage.