Dr. Liz Specht

Guest Speaker: Biotech, Food, Agriculture

Liz received her B.S. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Johns Hopkins University and her Ph.D. from the Division of Biological Sciences at the University of California San Diego, followed by postdoctoral research at the University of Colorado Boulder. While she worked across many organisms and systems, the unifying theme throughout her academic research was leveraging the ingenuity of existing biological “parts” to engineer new biological systems that are beneficial to humanity — broadly known as synthetic biology. As an undergraduate, her research involved synthesizing and characterizing novel designed peptides predicted to interact with biomineral surfaces to modulate the growth and structure of these materials. Liz’s doctoral research in Steve Mayfield’s lab focused on characterizing gene regulatory mechanisms in the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, developing tools for advanced algal engineering and investigating the prevalence of targeted gene integration. In her postdoctoral research at the BioFrontiers Institute at the University of Colorado Boulder, her main project focused on developing novel biosensor platforms with the ultimate goal of creating diagnostics for low-resource settings.Liz has never been motivated purely by the intrinsic intellectual value of basic research — rather, she has always sought highly applied projects with the potential to generate significant positive impact. Because revolutionary technologies are only useful insofar as they are adopted by the public, she is also keenly interested in the intersection between science, policy, and public perception; at every stage of her career, Liz sought exposure to this intersection beyond the lab bench. While at Johns Hopkins, she volunteered in India with Haath Mein Sehat during summer and winter breaks, collecting epidemiological data and water samples and training local college students to perform water quality tests in the lab. In graduate school, she volunteered regularly with the Salk Mobile Science Lab to conduct hands-over activities with middle school students in the greater San Diego area and volunteered at events like the San Diego Science Expo, conducting demonstrations to the public explaining the positive potential of scientific research. During her postdoc, Liz participated in the CU Boulder's science policy graduate certificate program offered through the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research (CSTPR). Liz remains a Fellow with the University of Colorado at Boulder Sustainability Innovation Lab.Liz has found the perfect intersection of her interests in her current role as Senior Scientist at The Good Food Institute (GFI), where the technologies she studies are incredibly high-impact and she gets to work directly with business experts, consumer researchers, and investors to help these technologies make their way into the real world. At GFI, Liz has become one of the world’s experts on plant-based and clean meat. Her primary job is to assess the technological landscape to identify research needs pertaining to plant-based meat, dairy, and egg alternatives and clean meat. She works directly with academic researchers, start-up companies, industry players, technology incubators, philanthropic research funders, and investors to consult on technical strategy and educate about opportunities in these areas. Liz has published articles on these topics in peer-reviewed journals and industry trade magazines, as well as several white papers available open-access on GFI’s website.In her free time, Liz enjoys traveling, running, hiking, writing, and reading nonfiction – mostly with her two dogs at her side. She recently wrapped up a 2-year road trip as a “digital nomad” remote-working scientist traveling the country in an RV to land in the San Francisco Bay Area – a hotbed for innovation in sustainable food technology.