Our Executive Director, Dr. Sarah Goodwin, has been running and shaping iBiology from its earliest days. Sarah talks about her transition from laboratory research to media production, growing into her role and building the team, and her vision for the future.

How did you get started at iBiology?

During my PhD, I had a deep interest in science education and how we teach science. While I was a graduate student, Ron Vale, my PI, had started a project called “iBioSeminars”, where he created free online research talks. Right when I graduated, Ron secured a major grant for this project, and given its educational nature, asked if I wanted to run it for a year before starting a post-doc. I saw the position as an opportunity to dive into the science education world, and also meet a lot of scientists whom I admire and get a sense for what motivated them and their work. I ended up enjoying the job so much that I’m still here almost 10 years later.

Sarah interviewing Dr. George Langford for an early iBiology talk

iBiology has grown and changed a lot throughout your tenure. What has that process been like for you?

Watching iBiology grow and change over the years has been incredibly rewarding. That is a large part of the reason I have been at the organization for so long. We still create free online research talks, but have expanded to create skills development courses for graduate students and post-docs, short films about research stories, and feature length documentaries. We’ve worked with phenomenal people including science communication researchers, science educators, and other filmmakers. Ten years ago, I was the first full-time employee, and now we are a team of 15 full-time staff with numerous collaborators. It is a really fun and dynamic place to work and innovate in how we tell science stories.

At the Hot Docs Film Festival with Dr. Jennifer Doudna and members of the Human Nature production team (Dan Rather, Adam Bolt, Regina Sobel, and Elliot Kirschner)

A standout project for me was working as a Producer and science advisor on the documentary film Human Nature. I learned so much about storytelling and filmmaking. At the same time, I felt like I was able to use my skills as a scientist to really dive deep into the discovery story of CRISPR, which was featured in the film. I read the original research papers, I looked up sequences of genes and mutations, and was able to help make sure the science in the film was accurate. Human Nature is a great example of what we want to do with all of our content – bring scientists and storytellers together to tell stories that capture the wonder and journey of science.

You’ve carved out a pretty interesting path for yourself. Do you feel like there were any particular qualities or interests that helped you figure out your direction?

I have always loved talking about science, whether it was telling my own research story from my PhD, teaching in a classroom, or interviewing other scientists. At iBiology, I get to spend a lot of my time thinking about how to share the stories of scientists with different audiences, which is really rewarding. I am also a very visual person – I used to do photography and my favorite days in the lab were those where I was in the microscope room all day. The videos we create are visual of course, but it goes beyond that – with many of our projects we get to work with cinematographers and animators that really bring these stories to life in visually beautiful and engaging ways. I love it. Lastly, over the years I’ve found that I really enjoy running an organization. It was a lot of work to get iBiology established as a non-profit but I found it all really interesting. I’m always learning new things – my role and responsibilities have never stopped changing.

What are you excited about at iBiology right now?

The iBiology team (pre-pandemic!)

iBiology has evolved a lot since it started. The project started with the mission of democratizing science knowledge by creating free online research talks by renowned scientists. While this is still a part of our mission, in the last four or five years we’ve really started innovating more in how we create our video content. We have shifted to doing more interview-based content, where we spend more effort in the storytelling and visuals we use to tell a story. We have expanded in the types of content we’ve created, including as I mentioned before professional development courses, short and feature-length films, and even a written collection of science stories. We’ve involved more junior scientists and feature multiple voices in many of our videos. We’ve been collaborating more with the science communication research and science education communities. We have core values and mission, but are constantly innovating in the projects we engage with.

I feel so lucky to be at an organization like this, where we have the freedom to create content that we think is interesting and also makes an impact in education and science communication. We’ve developed an amazing team with a lot of expertise from the worlds of science and media production. We’re all very collaborative and are constantly learning from each other, which has created a dynamic organization that I think is unique and special.

This past year has shown how essential it is to have reliable and accurate communication about science, and I hope iBiology continues to be a part of this effort for years to come.


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