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Meet Heidy Cruz, polymer chemist and chemical engineer

1) What do you do?

​I develop polymer-based materials tailored for nutrient recovery from domestic wastewater. Climate change, energy issues, limits in resource availability, and end of life of current infrastructures are driving a shift in societal production systems from linear to circular economy. Recovery of nutrients from used water has gained significant interest in the academic world, the water industry, and policy makers. 

The goal of my research is to develop new technology for a more sustainable nitrogen recovery process from domestic wastewater– cutting back greenhouse gas emissions and providing a platform for a circular economy in the field of wastewater treatment. 

2) Where do you work?

I’m in the 2nd year of my PhD at The University of Queensland in Australia. I work in two centers:

  •    Center for Solid Waste Bioprocessing, Civil Engineering
  •    Polymer Translational Research Group​, Chemical Engineering

3) Tell us about the photos!

[Top:] At work at our laboratory at the Center for Solid Waste Bioprocessing

[Bottom:] By the lake inside campus– I always come here to relax my mind when research gets tough

4) Tell us about your academic career path so far. 

  • HS: Statefields School Inc, Philippines (2007)
  • BS: University of Santo Tomas, Philippines (2012) 
  • MS: Kongju University, South Korea (2016)
  • PhD: The University of Queensland, Australia (ongoing)

I’ve always wanted to pursue a research degree in another country to test my capabilities and expand my horizon. Luckily, I received a full scholarship from Kongju National University in South Korea where I did my Masters of Science in Advanced Materials Engineering. In July 2016, six months after graduation, I started my PhD. God-willing, I’ll be a doctor before I turn 30!

5) Anything else you’d like to share?

There are only a handful of us in the global arena, or at least here in Australia, but I believe that Filipino scientists are truly talented and globally competitive. I hope more Filipinos will be encouraged to pursue research and contribute the knowledge to the advancement of science and technology in the Philippines.

There is a common perception that scientists are still sitting in ivory towers– but times have changed. It’s a career that needs the same perseverance and collaboration as any other profession. The only difference is that scientists need to maintain a healthy dose of idealism that we can really change the world one data point at a time.

8 Ways to Improve Your Writing

I got a great anonymous ask last week from someone who wanted to know how to identify weak spots in their writing. One of the things that comes with time and experience is finding the language to identify, discuss, and address the feeling that something isn’t quite right or that a story is “missing something.” Not knowing them or their writing, of course I couldn’t help them figure out what specifically the problem was. But I did share with them a list of things I’ve done over the years to be able to identify weak spots and improve my writing. 

1. Analyze your favorite writers.

Figure out why you like the writing that you like. Ask yourself: What are they doing here? What are they doing that I’m not doing? Why do I love their writing so much? Take notes on their stories. Plot them. Write in the margins. Read them slowly. Read their reviews—both good and bad. Did that writer you love once write something you hated? Great, even better. Figure out why that particular book was different from the others.

2. Analyze your own writing.

Do you have an older story you wrote that you love? Figure out why. What did you do differently in that story that you’re not doing in the current story you’re writing? Make notes. Draw maps. Reverse engineer everything.

3. Develop a language to talk and think about writing.

Read craft books, blogs, anything you can get your hands on. Learn about point of view, conflict, character development, dialogue, story structure, syntax, metaphors. Get your advice from good sources, and don’t believe everything you read. If something doesn’t sit right with you, throw it out. But be open to everything.

4. Journal and write about your writing.

Over time, you will identify consistent weaknesses that you have. Then, in the future, when you feel like “something is missing” from your writing, you can reference your notes and remember, for example, that you often have difficulty with your protagonist’s motivation, with theme, with dialogue, etc., and you’ll have a better idea about where to go looking.

5. Share your writing with someone you trust, ideally a more experienced writer than you or an editor or mentor.

Be very careful about who you share your writing with. Friends and family are not always the best choice. You don’t want someone who’s just going to throw around their uneducated opinion about your work, who has a big ego, or who won’t be honest with you. Remember: “I liked it” or “I didn’t like it” are useless pieces of feedback. You want someone who can read your work and say, “Your protagonist’s passion for music made them really likeable to me. I was dying to know whether they would get into the conservatory or not!” or “My attention wandered on page two, when you described the couch upholstery for three paragraphs.”

6. Analyze the areas of your writing which are commonly problematic for new writers (and writers in general).

In my experience as an editor, the most likely culprits are unclear character motivation and lack of conflict. There are a lot of good resources (books and blogs) about this. Try a Google search for “most common mistakes beginning writers make.”

7. Trust your intuition.

Do you keep coming back to the same page or scene in your story, feeling like it isn’t right? You’re probably onto something.

8. Take time away from your writing.

You’d be amazed how much more clear everything will be after a break. Give yourself at least a week for a short story, 3-4 weeks for a novel. It could also be the case that your ambitions for this particular story don’t yet match your skills, and that you’ll have to wait even longer to successfully finish it. I’ve known writers who have given up on a story only to come back to it months or years later once they’d gained the skills and insight to complete it. And then suddenly writing that story seemed really easy!

  • <p> <b>Medic:</b> You got shot. Do you remember anything?<p/><b>Engineer:</b> Only the ambulance ride to the hospital...<p/><b>Spy:</b> That wasn't an ambulance, I drove you.<p/><b>Engineer:</b> ... But I heard a siren...<p/><b>Spy:</b> That was Scout.<p/><b>Scout:</b> *from outside the room* I won't apologize for my blood phobia!<p/></p>
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Drinking Bird

Alien (1979)
The Simpsons - S03E24 (1992)
Alien 3 (1992)
Alien: Isolation (2014)
Alien: Covenant (2017)

Why Fans Resonate With Lance So Much and Why We’re Mad He’s a False Protagonist (spoilers I guess)

So Lance has pretty much been my favorite character since about ten seconds after he came on screen, and I’ll try to get right to the point about why I feel that way and why a giant portion of the vld fandom feels that way as well.

Obviously, Lance has been openly shown to have insecurities about his self-worth. I can’t really think of another character from a cartoon show (except maybe, like, Sokka from A;TLA) to have this plotline to this degree, but it’s a very unique and sensitive characterization that should be handled a little more carefully than it has been.

As a recap, Lance doesn’t really contribute much in the way of “hyper-specialized skills” to Voltron (aside from occasional shots of underused Sniper!Lance.) But next to him, we see 1). An ace pilot with special alien heritage and advanced hand-to-hand fighting skills who has been picked as the successor to the team’s leader 2). An Earth hero/veteran with a special prosthetic that gives him valuable fighting abilities, who pilots the oh-so-special Black Lion 3). An engineering genius 4). A tech/ex machina genius 5). A space princess with magical powers, fighting skills, and shapeshifting abilities who can ‘sense’ and ‘channel’ whatever whenever the plot needs her to.

And then, oh yeah, we’ve got…Lance. Who cracks goofy jokes. 

He’s NORMAL! And it SUCKS to feel ‘normal’ when everyone around you seems so effortlessly special!

I’ve struggled with that feeling my whole life—that habit of constantly measuring myself against others and obsessing over what I can “contribute”. For the longest time, I thought I was only as valuable as what I could bring to the table. So I was shocked and awed to see a character with that same affliction. It’s odd. I’ve never had a character I resonated so strongly with. I see myself in Lance so much.

Our own insecurities are validated and reflected through Lance’s character. It’s a real emotional issue that many of us struggle with, so to see it on the screen given representation means something.

ANYWAY—Onto why Lance is a false protagonist, and why I’m pissed about it. In fiction, a false protagonist is “a literary technique, often used to make the plot more jarring or more memorable by fooling the audience’s preconceptions, that constructs a character who the audience assumes is the protagonist but is later revealed not to be.”

LANCE WAS SET UP DURING THE BEGINNING OF EPISODE ONE AS THOUGH HE WAS THE MAIN CHARACTER. 

Seriously, think about how books typically use their prologue+main story setup. We got our prologue (Shiro and the Holts being taken) and then it opens up to what the viewers assume is the start of the “Main Story” which typically follows the main character-to-be. This is a natural pattern to follow in storytelling because it helps the viewer understand and process what role each character plays overall. Lance is the first character we got a little bit of a read on with that whole “Blah blah remember you’re just a replacement for the dropout so don’t end up like him” Garrison test flight, so that’s another reason for the viewer to latch onto him. 

Watching Voltron for the first time knowing literally nothing about it going in, I knew there would be a team dynamic as episode one unfolded but thought that there would be special emphasis on Lance as the main character (think Aang from A;TLA. Yeah, there was a team of main characters, but Aang was THE main character if you get what I’m saying).

Seriously, go back and watch the first episode again if you didn’t notice it the first time. By a writing standpoint, Lance is written in the most “This will be the main character!” way possible. 

Which is why it’s so bizarre that he’s been pushed to the back-burner for so many seasons now. God, at this point, his back-burner isn’t even turned on anymore. He and Hunk are just the 3-day old pots of mac n’ cheese congealing by the sink while Shiro, Keith, and Pidge are lit up and ready to go at a moment’s notice, but at least Hunk’s Balmeran arc in season 1 spanned, like, 2 or 3 whole episodes when Lance is lucky to get anything beyond two minutes.

I’ve accepted that he’s not THE main character (I WAS starting to think it was Keith, but then he f’ed off for season 4 and I was like, no, Voltron, when we said we wanted less Keith we just meant we needed a better balance of characters not the entire removal of one) (and anyway how bad is it that even when Keith’s character is finally drawn back a little bit, WE STILL. GET. NO. LANCE (or Hunk). ARC.) 

Still, the dynamic from a writer’s standpoint is a little clunky. In my experience, stories are best told when they revolve around a singular main character, or two, like Gravity Falls for example. But things fall apart and get messy, especially in a television format, if you try to sell 5 main characters (six if you count Allura) as equally important (story-wise) right from the start. It just doesn’t work. It’s only natural to latch onto one or two characters and that’s why we keep getting these “Just wait, Lance will get his (3 second, never mentioned again or brought forward into a new season) moment!” promises. Good storytelling just doesn’t evolve well when you try to juggle five characters as all equally THE main character. And it ESPECIALLY feels super-clunky since Lance was introduced in episode one of the whole show as the potential main character and then used mostly for comic-relief ever since.

And when I say I want a Lance arc, I don’t mean “I want a Lance arc where Lance helps Keith learn to lead” or whatever—NO, GODDAMMIT. I WANT. AN ARC. FOCUSED SPECIFICALLY ON LANCE. NOT ON LANCE GROWING AS A SUPPORT FOR OTHER CHARACTERS’ GROWTH.

I was actually hoping that whole “Lance Dies in season 4!” worry going around would be true because 1). Lance obviously wouldn’t die for-real, so I wasn’t even worried about that 2). It would mean we would actually be getting what could have been a very emotional and quality Lance-focused story arc longer than three minutes.

I’m actually starting to think Lance isn’t going to get a story arc that spans across a few episodes that also remains the driving theme of those episodes. I think it will be another tossed-out line regarding his insecurity and that will be it.

I wanted Lance to be the Black Paladin so freaking bad, you guys! It would have been such a twist, such a moment for him to show off the leadership skills he’s been quietly accumulating. AND HOW ANGRY WAS I IN SEASON 4 WHEN LANCE LOGICALLY SAID “HM, MAYBE WE SHOULDN’T STAND UNDER THESE GENERATOR THINGS THAT LOOK LIKE THEY COULD FORM A FORCE FIELD AT ANY TIME” AND SHIRO BASICALLY SAID “WAIT HOLD ON, WE HAVE TO INVESTIGATE WHAT IT IS BY STANDING EXACTLY WHERE WE ARE.” WTF. LANCE, WHY ARE YOU SO IGNORED.

Anyway, it’s late and I’m cranky and kind of forgot where I was going with this but I’m signing off, passively hoping that maybe Lance will one day get his huge “I’m Keith and I get whole seasons dedicated to me” arc. 

But it probably won’t happen.

Ugh.

I’m going back to bed.

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T.G.I.F. This. Gig. Is. Fierce! 

We’re taking over @vh1​ Fridays for #DragRace S9! Start your engines on Friday, 3/24 at 8/7c – encores on Logo!

Snatch up the latest promo ➡️ http://logo.to/2mL5PkP