How the Pandemic Motivated Me to Start My Green Labs Journey

Julie Sesen shares how her interest in sustainability led to a green labs initiative at Boston Children’s Hospital

Julie Sesen, PhD
Published:Feb 01, 2022
|3 min read
Julie Sesen, PhD

Julie Sesen, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital and leader of the BCH Green Labs group. After her PhD in Toulouse, France, where she studied translation initiation factors in an aggressive type of brain tumor called glioblastoma, she landed in Boston four years ago to find new biomarkers for pediatric brain tumors and cerebrovascular diseases in the vascular biology program under Dr. Edward Smith’s supervision.


I have always been aware of the amount of waste we produce in the lab, but my interest in green labs and sustainability really started during the pandemic. 

I realized that with the inevitable need of single-use plastics for testing, vaccine production, and single-use masks, I had to respond, even if only at an individual scale, to reduce my carbon footprint, including in the lab.

The My Green Lab Ambassador Program strongly contributed to my education in lab sustainability. The program helped connect me with other green lab activists in the US and around the world.

I shared what I had learned with my colleagues by holding a lab meeting about lab sustainability and how to green our lab. During the meeting, the enthusiasm I felt from my labmates, peers, and supervisors was really motivating. 

At the same time, I prepared the My Green Lab certification for our lab. It helped me understand where our lab at Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) was at in terms of lab sustainability and where we had room for improvement. 

Some of the certification questions were easy to answer, but for others, I had to find the right stakeholders, especially for questions about building management (lighting, vacuum, water, etc.). This is when I met the different research operations departments that now play an important role in BCH’s green labs initiatives. It took us some time to revise the certification, but in the end we were awarded the highest level of certification, the “green” level.

"Each successful initiative motivates us to keep going until every BCH lab is green."

But we didn’t stop there. The enthusiasm I felt at our lab meeting and while assessing potential improvements at the institutional level motivated me and another postdoc, Stephanie Ragland, to start the BCH Green Labs group in early 2021.

BCH Green Labs is a group of postdocs, research assistants, undergraduate and graduate students, and operation officers who care about the environment, want to learn about sustainability, and get involved in implementing green initiatives at BCH. 

Our first goal is to increase awareness of lab sustainability and our Green Labs group among our BCH colleagues. We are currently working on multiple aspects of lab sustainability (energy, waste, green chemistry, purchasing, etc.) in close collaboration with BCH research operations to ensure our efforts are safe and in line with BCH guidelines. We have also started regularly engaging with research lab representatives at monthly meetings and implementing initiatives such as promoting BCH’s building-specific chemical inventory list, which supports resource sharing and helps reduce chemical waste, as well as the annual Laboratory Freezer Challenge organized by My Green Lab and I2SL. 

Starting such a group is a step-by-step process that takes time, but it is uplifting to see the enthusiasm and involvement of the research community and each successful initiative motivates us to keep going until every BCH lab is green.


Fiona Young, MSc, (left), James Connelly (middle), and Ilyssa Gordon, MD, PhD (right)

Want to learn more? Join us live!

Toward a Sustainable Clinical Lab

Wednesday, August 31, 2022, at 11:00am-12:00pm EDT

In this webinar, James Connelly, CEO of My Green Lab, will discuss green labs and opportunities to work toward building more sustainable clinical labs. Special guest speakers, Ilyssa O. Gordon, MD, PhD, associate professor of pathology and medical director of sustainability at the Cleveland Clinic, and Fiona Young, MSc, senior medical scientist at Irish Blood Transfusion Service National Donor Screening Laboratory, will share examples of successful changes implemented in clinical labs.

LEARN MORE

 


Julie Sesen, PhD

Julie Sesen, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital and leader of the BCH Green Labs group. After her PhD in Toulouse, France, where she studied translation initiation factors in an aggressive type of brain tumor called glioblastoma, she landed in Boston four years ago to find new biomarkers for pediatric brain tumors and cerebrovascular diseases in the vascular biology program under Dr. Edward Smith’s supervision.


Top Image:
Courtesy of Julie Sesen, PhD