Moving Science

Looking toward a greener tomorrow: Change Agent Elizabeth Scribner

September 1, 2018

Elizabeth Scribner thought she knew what was going on at Southern Research. Her father’s solar company helped Southern Research install solar panels at its Solar Research Center, and she’s on the board of a local foundation that has donated money to SR. But last year, when she was invited to serve on SR’s Advisory Board, she realized how much she had yet to learn.

“I didn’t know the half of what Southern Research is doing, as far as scientific research and engineering go,” she said. She was amazed to hear about the telescopes SR designed to photograph the eclipse from NASA’s high-altitude research aircraft and the advances in cancer research she hadn’t known about.

“What really grabbed me was when Dr. Amit Goyal came to speak about some of his green energy research,” Scribner said. “I was amazed to hear that he’s developed technology that turns sugar into acrylonitrile, which is used in cars and planes, and I had to smile when I heard about Legos,” said the mother of three. Learning that SR could replace a product that relied on oil refinery with one that used renewable resources, “I got very excited about that,” she said. “Knowing that, and getting a little more energized about everything Southern Research is doing, inspired me to be a Change Agent.”

SR wasn’t her first introduction to green science. “Before I was a mathematician, or a mom, or a wife, I was an environmentalist,” Scribner said. “As an undergraduate at Princeton, I had a minor in environmental studies. And I started learning about all the damage we’ve done to our planet. But on the other side, I also started learning about all the promise that science holds in terms of helping solve those problems.”

Scribner appreciates the platform the Change Campaign provides to talk about Southern Research. “When I tell people, they’re amazed,” she said. “They say, ‘I had no idea this is here in Birmingham.’ And here Southern Research is creating scientific change to improve the world, but they’re also creating jobs and attracting amazing intellectual talent to our city.” She sees great potential in the acrylonitrile technology to create jobs in poorer regions of Alabama. “If we could use this technology to not only improve the condition of our planet but also improve the economic situation in our state, that would be amazing,” she said.

“I’ve got a lot going on. My life is pretty busy. But I feel like it’s a gift for me to be able to volunteer for a group like Southern Research,” Scribner said. “It helps me to step above the day-to-day ‘What am I going to fix for dinner? Oh, no, we’re out of diapers’ and see the bigger picture. We’re not going to be here forever. But my kids’ kids will have kids who will be here a hundred years from now. It’s important to me that they have the ability to eat fresh food, breathe clean air and drink clean water. There’s a lot of work to be done. And here in Birmingham, I feel like we have someone to advocate for that.”

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