Hi, I’m Paige! Creator of the Nyoka Light Wand – bioluminescent eco friendly glow stick

Hi, I’m Paige! I’m a Microbiology + Environmental Studies student graduating Spring 2019. You may recognize me from Levi Hildebrand’s  (fellow student blogger) video below about the ‘World’s First Eco-Friendly Glow Stick’. That’s me!

I am the creator of the ‘Nyoka Light Wand’. This is my first time as a UVic Student Blogger and I have a lot I’m looking forward to sharing with you about my time here at UVic.

Did you know there are over 500 million glow sticks made every year? Festivals, emergency kits, party favours, military use – every single one is made from non-renewable plastic and various chemicals.

I saw these all over the ground at one of my favourite music festivals, Shambhala, and that planted the seed to create an eco-friendly version that was biodegradable, non-toxic, and powered with bioluminescence*. I’m working to further develop the Light Wand to be healing for the environment as it eventually breaks down.

Bioluminescence: Bio = Living + Luminescence = Light

*Bioluminescence is protein-based light – created by an enzyme called luciferase. Many deep-sea creatures are bioluminescent, and there are also terrestrial insects (fireflies, glow worms, etc.) and even bioluminescent mushrooms! I’ve been interested in studying bioluminescence for ages – so enchanting and magic –  the thought of working with bioluminescence to solve the glow stick problem just made a lot of sense.

Firefly luciferase – viewed as Unit Cell Assembly. Click through to find more and try different views: http://www.rcsb.org/3d-view/1LCI

 

So, this is where the real work began. There are no researchers locally who specialize in bioluminescence, so I began to self-study.

I started researching what kind of bioluminescent systems are currently available, and how the enzymatic system works. I quit school and took a year long co-op to save up, which enabled me to travel to the Scripps Institute to meet with Dr. Michael Latz, a leading bioluminescence researcher, then on to an internship in Puerto Rico, where I worked with the Vieques Conservation and Historical Trust on the conservation of a rare bioluminescent bay. –> watch the video below for the BioBay experience.

During this time my friend, Mike Graham, who knew I had a growing obsession with bioluminescence, told me about someone he met at Burning Man who gifted him a bioluminescent water gun.

I was floored – I hadn’t found anything like that online. Turns out it was on the down-low that these things even existed.  I had to find out who these people were!

I traded a bag of glow stones with Mike with the understanding that this information would make its way back to me. A few weeks later and I had my contact with an incredible research group working on developing bioluminescence for real-world applications.

I was terrified to get in touch with them – what if they didn’t want to work with me? Luckily they are super awesome and we have been working together ever since. I can’t wait to see where this research effort goes – the energy conversion to light during a bioluminescence reaction is incredibly efficient, way more so than any of the electric lights we use. Imagine one day all of our lights could be living. 

From Idea to Start-up

I pitched the Light Wand at the UVic Innovation Centre‘s Pitch It competition years ago – no prototype, just an idea, and they told me to come back once a prototype was developed.

It felt so great to return, prototype in hand, to give a demo during my second Pitch It attempt. Winning that round also felt pretty good, and got me started working with the Innovation Centre to further improve the Light Wand prototype and focus on starting this as a real life startup 🙂

Now let me just stop you right here: I never thought I would be doing this. But after working as a research assistant, in non-profits, and never feeling like the standard academic route was right for me, developing my own ideas and my own applications has been incredibly empowering.

Paige speaking at the MIT Media Lab’s Global Community BioSummit!

So, I’ll be talking a lot more about this in upcoming posts, and you can find a lot of information online, so I’m here to give back to the UVic community and to give you a sense of who I am beyond the work that I do.

petri dish art!

I spend my time working on Nyoka, dreaming up *semi-related* science projects, teaching myself about a million different things I’m interested in, loving my job as a science instructor with Science Venture, losing myself in graphic design (fractal image generators are my current favourite thing), taking care of my ongoing biochar study, adding sassy comments to my fledgling Nyoka chatbot, making stuff at Makerspace, and yes, completing coursework for my final Biochemistry and Microbiology Labs – which are awesome!

The Nyoka Light Wand – world’s first eco-friendly glow stick powered with bioluminescence.

In future posts I’ll be talking about: (will add links as posts are published!)

  • How I got into sciences and how incredibly empowering it has been
  • My recent trip to the prestigious MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) BioSummit
  • Why everyone should take Environmental Studies (or at least the introductory class)
  • Great online and off-campus resources for life long learning
  • How university changed me and helped me stop feeling ashamed of my intelligence
  • Some of the rough parts of #studentlife and how to get help!
  • Why to apply for a Work Study (first step towards research!)
  • My favourite “alone” spots on campus
  • Some simple DIY tips to make your life a lot more environmentally friendly
  • And probably a whole lot more!

You can follow me at @pagexrage on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and support the Light Wand project at www.lightbynyoka.com

See you soon!

Paige

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