Michaela Walker is a research engineer at Memphis Meats, a cell-based meat company growing meat from cells instead of from the whole animal. Her job is to figure out which cells would grow the best meat for human consumption. "Discovering You: Engineering Your World" is produced by NBC News Learn in partnership with Chevron, the American Society for Engineering Education and the National Science Foundation.
Discovering You – Engineering Your World – Michaela Walker
MICHAELA WALKER (Bioengineer):
If we look at where we’re really seeing the effective muscle differentiation, it’s anywhere we are seeing these tubes. My name is Michaela Walker and I'm a bioengineer. I am originally from Quincy, Massachusetts, which is just outside of Boston. One of the things I loved about studying bioengineering was it allowed me to combine a love of science and discovery with a real passion for making things. I didn't just want to learn about the world. I wanted to make something. I wanted to make the world a better place. And engineers have that really creative mindset, that, "what can I make, what can I do?" Not just discover and learn. I went to school in North Carolina. I got involved in a skeletal muscle tissue engineering lab, started to get a little bit specialized in that and that's what landed me in making meat. I am a research engineer in process development at Memphis Meats. Memphis Meats is a cell-based meat company. We are harvesting meat directly from animal cells, instead of from the whole animal, aiming to feed a growing population with meat that is sustainable and delicious. If you think about where we get meat from today, we get it from a whole animal. But there's all these other parts of the animal that we didn't use. A cow has fur and horns, eyes, a brain. All of those things take energy. The way we make meat currently has significant impacts on the environment. If we could just grow the part of the animal that we want, it could inherently be more sustainable if we can figure out ways to do that efficiently. My role is to take the cells that we have identified as candidates for efficient meat production and figure out how to grow them. How do we make them grow fast? How do we make them grow well and healthy and turn into a tissue that is a delicious meat product? We grow these cells up in these units that we call cultivators so that we can have more and more and more of them. And then we form them into tissues because meat is more than just a collection of cells. Meat is a combination of skeletal muscle and connective tissue and fat. As a company, we have debuted chicken, duck and beef. But the idea would be that ultimately any meat that is traditionally consumed by humans could be produced in this new cell-based manner as a way to supplement the food supply as we grow as a human population. Being an engineer is about finding a way to make the world around you better. So if you care about making the world a better place, if you want to be engaged intellectually and creatively with these big challenges, engineering is the path for you.
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