Jennifer Wilcox, an associate professor in the Chemical and Biochemical Engineering Department at the Colorado School of Mines, has dedicated her life to researching methods of carbon capture. Professor Wilcox came to speak to the STS seniors this fall about her researcher, and although her talk was not geared towards the origins theme, the nature of her research and the presence of her young daughter brought to mind themes of origins and the agency we have as humans in impacting the lives of future generations.
Professor Wilcox’s research, new ways to optimize carbon capture, is cutting edge research that has the potential to have a large scale impact on the lives of future generations. Finding ways to counter the negative impact that human beings have had on increasing climate temperatures could provide generations to come with a safer environment. This potential impact on the way of life for future generations is where Wilcox’s work connects to the theme of origins. The way people enter this world (the place their born into, the political environment at the time, the current global issues at hand) effects the way they grow up and the people they become. Thus, entering a world in crisis due to climate change versus entering an environmentally stable world has the potential to shape a person’s personality, lifestyle, and sense of identity at large.
The presence of Professor Jennifer Wilcox’s young daughter at the luncheon that followed her talk served to highlight the relevance of her work to origins, lifestyles, and identities of the children of the future. Professor Wilcox made a point to acknowledge her awareness of the relationship between her work and her daughter’s future, and stated how she wanted to be able to make the world a better and more habitable place for her daughter so that her daughter would not have to worry about solving problems our generation and generations before us have laid out. I found this awareness of our impact on the future of others and Professor Wilcox’s desire to work to change the world in order to better it for generation to come remarkable. As a working scientist, she wants to find a solution to the problem and, as a mother, she wants to exercise agency over the way her daughter and other future descendants enter the world.
Agency and origins are not two words that usually go hand in hand. Typically, we consider origins as all of those parts of your history that comprise your identity without a freedom of choice. For instance, you can’t choose where you’re parents were born or what religion your family practices. However, Professor Wilcox indirectly suggests that perhaps we can exercise agency over the origins we provide for our children and their children. We don’t have to sit back and let the world spiral out of control and ignore climate, but rather we can make an effort to solve the problems of today to provide a better start for the generations of the future.