Podcast by InnovatorsBox®

Curious Monica: Season 3

Solve Global Challenges with Science and Storytelling with Aubrey R. Paris

Curious Monica – a Podcast by InnovatorsBox®. Hosted by Monica H. Kang.

The Curious Monica podcast features candid conversations with innovators in thriving organizations across various industries. In each episode, host & founder of InnovatorsBox, Monica Kang interviews her friends in diverse fields about what they do and why they love what they do. If you’re curious too, you’ll gain incredible insight into the workplace patterns that can change the way you think about work, no matter what industry you’re in or who you are.

Tune in on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or your preferred platform of choice!

Dr. Aubrey R. Paris grew up loving science and science fairs. Curiosity drove her to identify problems and approach them with innovative thinking, a hallmark of scientific problem-solving. While exploring various avenues in science and innovation, she recognized an opportunity to merge her interests and pursue a career in science diplomacy. What exactly is science diplomacy? Aubrey is eager to delve deeper into this topic and share her journey that led her to her current role as the Senior Policy Advisor on Gender, Climate & Innovation in the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues (S/GWI) at the U.S. Department of State.

Today, she spearheads policy and public diplomacy initiatives at the intersection of gender and climate change. Reflecting on her journey, she attributes her success to her passion for innovation, storytelling, and community building, qualities she encourages others to embrace by trying something new.

Join us in celebrating Aubrey R. Paris’s inspiring journey into sustainability. Learn more about her work on Curious Monica and our website curiousmonica.com.


Senior Policy Advisor for Gender, Climate Change, and Innovation, U.S. Department of State

Dr. Aubrey Paris is the Senior Policy Advisor on Gender, Climate Change, & Innovation in the Secretary's Office of Global Women's Issues (S/GWI) at the U.S. Department of State, where she leads foreign policy and public diplomacy efforts related to the nexus of gender equality and climate change. Most recently, she was responsible for the development of the first-ever United States Strategy to Respond to the Effects of Climate Change on Women. At the State Department, she launched the Innovation Station initiative to amplify the impact of woman and girl innovators developing translatable solutions to climate-related challenges. Prior to joining the State Department, Dr. Paris was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and Energy and Climate Scholar at Princeton University, where she designed electrocatalysts capable of transforming carbon dioxide into useful and marketable products. During her graduate studies, she also contributed to research projects on water security implications of coal-fired power plants, the future of U.S. nuclear energy, and climate change impacts on national security. Dr. Paris received her Ph.D. in Chemistry and Materials Science from Princeton University (2019), M.A. in Chemistry from Princeton University (2017), and B.S. in Chemistry and Biology, with a minor in French, from Ursinus College (2015).

Play Video

Episode Shownotes

1. Title of the Episode:
Solve Global Challenges with Science and Storytelling with Aubrey R. Paris

2. Host:
Monica H. Kang, Founder & CEO of InnovatorsBox

3. Guest:
Dr. Aubrey Paris, Senior Policy Advisor for Gender, Climate Change, and Innovation, U.S. Department of State

4. Key Topics Covered:

  • The intersection of science and diplomacy
  • The role of women and girls in addressing climate change
  • Sustainable innovation in agriculture and environmental science
  • The importance of interdisciplinary education and experience
  • Strategies for effective leadership and communication in science policy

5. Highlights:

  • Dr. Paris’s journey from a science enthusiast to a leading figure in science diplomacy
  • The launch and impact of the Innovation Station initiative
  • Real-world applications of interdisciplinary approaches to address climate change

6. Quotes from Dr. Aubrey Paris:

  • “We should stop thinking from our career just in what we had in our degree.”
  • “Everything that I’m doing today is connected in some way to the interdisciplinary experiences I had in college.”

7. Some people suggested that we should learn from:

8. Contact Information for Dr. Aubrey Paris:

Dr. Aubrey Paris can be reached via LinkedIn, as well as other social media platforms.

9. Closing Thoughts by Monica Kang:

Monica Kang echoes Aubrey’s message, stressing the importance of not letting our initial education or first job define us indefinitely. She highlights our ability to evolve, influenced by experiences and new insights, and encourages us to harness our unique strengths in innovative ways. As we celebrate Earth Day, she invites listeners to explore diverse approaches to sustainability, urging us to push beyond perceived limits.

10. Episode Length and Release Date:
Episode Length: Approximately 51 minutes
Release Date: April 2, 2024


Monica H. Kang
Happy April and Earth Day month. Innovators, you’re listening to curious Monica. I’m your host, Monica King. And this month, as we walk into April, I’m very excited to celebrate innovators who had made an impact in sustainability, climate change, and have done so in unique ways. For sure. Today we’re going to kickstart with somebody who has found a unique way of bridging science in and diplomacy. At first glance, you might be wondering, wait, how does that work? And quickly, as you dive into your story and journey, you’ll realize, oh, that makes complete sense. And I wonder, jeez, what are other ways I can bridge my passion for science? You see, Doctor Aubrey Parris has always loved science. 


Monica H. Kang
I mean, yes, she’s loved storytelling and wanted to be a writer throughout her childhood, but science was something that she found early on that was just so exciting and interesting. I mean the way how you can problem solve and identify problems and gaps and how you had to find different methods to find a way to do something differently. It quickly led her to continuing her master’s degree and also pursuing a PhD in chemistry and materials science from Princeton University. And of course, navigating how she can bridge that into a unique way to make a positive difference in society. And that journey led her to learning about this field of diplomacy. You might be wondering, isnt science and diplomacy not necessarily that related? 


Monica H. Kang
Well be ready to be debunked because Doctor Paris wants to empower you to realize that we should stop thinking from our career just in what we had in our degree or what we had in our first job. And so whether its now bridging policy or helping think of new innovative ideas, or finding systematic solutions on how we empower climate change conversations differently in different departments across the embassies around the world, Doctor Aubrey Paris is excited to share how shes found a way not only to continue to bring her passion for science and new passion for storytelling with diplomacy. Today, she is the senior policy advisor on gender and climate Change and Innovation in the Secretarys Office of Global Womens issues at the US Department of State, where she leads policy and public diplomacy efforts related to the nexus of gender and climate change. 


Monica H. Kang
As part of her portfolio, she launched the innovation Station initiative to amplify the impact of women and girl innovators, developing translatable solutions to climate related challenges while simultaneously drawing substantial connections between domestic and international communities. And thats not it. If you take a closer look, youll see her other roles as a creator, a podcaster, a writer, and how she continues to seek different ways to bridge her interdisciplinary passion to bridge science and the community. So what are we waiting for? Let’s go meet doctor Aubrey Paris. 


Monica H. Kang
So very excited to have Aubrey here. Thank you for joining us. Welcome to the show. I guess the first question I have for you, given your extensive experience, I’m. 


Monica H. Kang
Curious, when you are a child, do you remember when, what you wanted to do when you grow up one day?. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
Oh, my gosh. Well, Monica, first and foremost, thank you for having me. And what a fun question to start with, this is going back a ways, but when I was little, like the first thing I can remember wanting to be when I grew up was some combination of a teacher, a writer and an artist. I think I was really influenced by my mom who was a teacher, and I had a grandmother who was a professional artist. And I always just really enjoyed creative writing. So I think that’s really where, when I was like elementary school age, that’s where my brain was focused. 


Monica H. Kang
And what a coincidence because you do actually carry on all those skills very much throughout your entire careers. But I think one of the things as we celebrate Earth Day, which I’m so excited to have you, which will talk about all of that jazz a little bit more, but the chapters that I took you to get there because you come more from a science background, chemistry, biology, material science. Tell me a little bit more why you knew when you were a student that was the field you wanted to get into. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
So I think things really started to change for me a little bit when I was in middle school, 6th grade, Mister Parente, shout out to him. I had a really influential science teacher who just made science seem really fun and really cool. And it was in middle school that I started to learn really what the scientific method was. I was that kid through middle school and high school that was really into science fair. Please don’t judge me. Big fan of science fairs over here. And the idea intrigued me because I have always been really interested in the environment and animals as a kid. And I really loved this idea that I could ask questions of what I wanted to know about in the world around me and I had the ability to find the answers, which really is the scientific method. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
I could pick something that I was really passionate about or interested in or that I thought was a real problem in the world and try to devise some experiments to come up with answer, a solution, what have you really? Throughout high school, all of my science fair projects focused on the environmental sciences. I did projects on erosion and acid rain, like you name it, all these different topics. And that was like my big, I don’t know, introduction into exploring science by hand. And so that’s when I knew that when it came time for college, I didn’t know what kind of science I wanted to pursue, but it was good to be something scientific. 


Monica H. Kang
And not only did you pursue science, you have pursued a bit deeply, even more so in gotten your PhD. Tell me a little bit more, because even if you love science, I think it’s a whole other decision making journey to say, hey, I might want to do this more studying thing and do this PhD. Yeah. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
It’s a decision that should not be taken lightly. Right. I think my story, my real professional story with science begins when I was an undergraduate. I attended a small liberal arts school called Ursinus College, Pennsylvania. Big fan. And while there, that’s when I chose my first two really professional scientific paths, biology and chemistry, as you mentioned earlier. And it was also during that time in college, coming from this liberal arts background, that I was introduced to everything that science could mean in the lab, but also outside of the lab in a very societal context. And so that’s when I started learning about the importance of science communication and the role of science in policy and all of these other intersections that aren’t necessarily obvious when you think about scientists behind a lab bench or at a fume hood or in the field. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
And so I learned during college that I thought I’d want to pursue what I think academics typically call alternative careers, basically, not behind a lab bench for the rest of your life. But I did still realize that being seen as an expert in the sciences would be important for me to pursue science in one of these alternative career tracks. And that’s really why I thought the PhD was the right route for me. 


Monica H. Kang
And how has that influenced your future? 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
Yeah. So I ended up doing my PhD in chemistry and materials science at Princeton, and my original science fair ideas of finding a problem that I am personally very passionate about and solving it with science definitely carried through. All the way through the PhD, I was studying how to develop materials that could transform carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas, into alternative products that could actually be useful, marketable, kind of as a climate change mitigation strategy. So very real world, very like, here’s the problem, let’s fix it. That kind of vibe. But when I was in grad school, I was really adamant about pursuing opportunities outside of the lab as well, something that I learned as a college student. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
So while I was at Princeton, I was really fortunate that Princeton had an amazing policy school, and I got to attend a lot of seminars related to environmental policy. I joined a graduate student group called the Princeton Energy and climate scholars that let me interface with graduate students from all across the campus, history, arts, engineering policy, you name it, to develop collaborative projects together. And then I maintained some outside of campus activities with a science policy think tank and a science communication podcast that really let me continue to explore the full breadth of what science could mean in the real world. And when it came time to defend my PhD, I was like, I think I know what the next step is. I think I want to know if a science policy career is right for me. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
And so I applied to a bunch of science and technology policy fellowship programs in Washington, DC. I was fortunate to be accepted to one of them, and the rest is kind of history, because while my capacity, like, I’m not a fellow anymore, my capacity has changed, but I’m still doing that work that I. That I started to some degree after I finished my PhD. 


Monica H. Kang
That’s really inspiring to hear, because I could see from the audience whether they first looked at your title. I’m like, wait, she works at the state department. Like, what does that even mean? Like, what kind of role? And then also from your science background, I’m like, wait, how did she get from science to diplomacy? But you’re sharing that it started with early experience, and I’m hearing from your reflection that it started out of pure curiosity, taking kind of a macro step back before we kind of talk a little bit more about what’s going on with the work that you do at state. There’s lots of skills and experiences that help shape to you who you are as a leader and as a person. I’m curious. 


Monica H. Kang
You kind of hinted already a few incidents through your reflection, but what would you say has been really key in, you know, helping you be a better leader in the person you are today. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
I really like to say that everything that I’m doing today is connected in some way to the interdisciplinary experiences I had in college. And there are two ish in particular that I think have been most influential. One of those was when I was at Arsinus. I was part of the first cohort of students to take part in this new program, this new on campus institute of sorts called the Parley center for Science and the common good. And it was this. I think it was born out of this idea that Ursinus is fairly well known in producing premed students. So there’s, like, a lot of people who go there to focus on sciences and to go to medical school. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
And I think that reality led the science departments to be like, maybe we should be thinking about some of, like, the societal aspects of medicine, the cultural competency, all of the questions of how medical science is broader than just the needles and the vaccines and all of that, right. Why is communication so important with patients? What policies around health are important for our students to be thinking about? And then it brought in beyond that to not just medical students, all of their science students could benefit from this sort of broader exposure. I was certainly one of them. So through that program I met, I had the great fortune of meeting so many prominent individuals in science who had the type of careers that I found really inspiring. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
These are the type of people, Monica, I don’t know if you can relate when you go to an event or a, like a lecture and someone reads the bio of the person who’s about to speak, and it’s like, first they did this, and then they did this totally unrelated thing, and then they went back up to here, and then they did this. And those were the type of science people I was meeting. And I was like, wow, I want to do that. You know what I mean? I want to have that sort of career where I’m not bounded by a stereotypical sense of what science means. That was really powerful for me. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
And then combining that with the second key experience, in college, I actually participated in an entrepreneurial competition, which sounds really kind of random for a chemist biologist, but it was just another emphasis on, like, okay, science can also have a business element to it. It can also be entrepreneurial. It can also have a social enterprise aspect to it. And so it was just this dabbling of all these different intersections that, I don’t know, it makes me feel really prepared for the type of work I do today. 


Monica H. Kang
That is really cool. And I think that is exactly part of the reason why I was excited to speak with you, because, like, always seem to have figured out a way how to navigate all these different industries and found a bridge and a relationship. And you’re sharing your reflection is really inspiring because I think for audiences who’s looking, they probably are feeling the same feeling what you just described, how you feel when you saw other speakers. So, hey now, folks, you know the secret? It’s now inspiring you to know you can do that somewhat looking creative path, because in each decision moment, you’re finding something that you find curious. The key is that you stay open and try and see how the dots connect later on. 


Monica H. Kang
And speaking of which, so, like, tell us a little bit more, what does it mean to bridge science and diplomacy in general? What have you learned now that you’ve been in this space for a while, and what were maybe perhaps some misconceptions that you think people often have about it? 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
Those are two really big questions. I’ll start with the ways that having a scientific background can intersect with diplomacy. First and foremost, the obvious emerging science and technology issues are very important when it comes to our foreign policy discussions and how we cooperate with or collaborate with our foreign allies and partners. You can think of all sorts of emerging technology issues like artificial intelligence, quantum information sciences, biotechnologies, etcetera. There are, you know, just as in the scientific community and the research community, there are sort of rules of the road for how we work on these sorts of topics. From a scientific method perspective, I would say my observation has been, from a diplomacy perspective, we’re trying to create those sorts of norms and rules of the road for how we engage with these technologies as they become more prevalent in society. And they will. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
Right. That’s kind of what science and tech is. It’s going from the lab into the real world, and we need to be prepared for that. So I think that’s the most obvious piece of it. The less obvious piece is the way scientists are trained to think. Is this scientific method that I’ve mentioned. Now, I haven’t said the word scientific method so much, I think, in years, but this way of thinking, of identifying the problem, doing all the research around that problem to create an informed hypothesis, test it, test your hypothesis of how you think you can solve the problem and then come to a conclusion, I think that’s a way of thinking that’s translatable beyond the lab bench. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
And so when I see fellow scientists in places like the State Department, I think they’ve really embraced that way of thinking and how to apply that way of thinking in just a new setting. And I, you know, we benefit as a society when we have different perspectives converging on a single problem. And I think a scientific perspective and a scientific way of thinking can only beneficial. 


Monica H. Kang
That is so important. And speaking of convergence, tell us a little bit more the convergence you’re doing for climate change in particular, how did you get, I mean, you were already hinting that you were getting into it with the research and the work that you were diving in. And I’m curious, like, as you were starting at state, was it more specifically like, hey, I want to do climate change, or is it like something organically that you got into it? Tell me a little bit more. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
Okay. So my current role at the state department is I work on the nexus of gender equality and climate change, which is. I’ll get into what that even means, I’m hoping a little bit later, but that’s not where I started at state. I started in a different office, working on biotechnology policy and public diplomacy, surrounding science and tech. Public diplomacy is the state department speak for public outreach, basically, especially to foreign audiences. And so my bio background became very relevant, and all the experiences I had with science communication and podcasting and blogging were really relevant to that public diplomacy piece. And that was a fun adventure for sure. But I happened upon my current role a little bit fortuitously. Climate change, and like I said, the environment have always been my passions. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
So when the opportunity arose to move to my current office, which is the office of global women’s issues, they were identifying this moment in time where the nexus of gender equality and climate change was about to be really important. For the record, it’s always been really important. But in terms of, you know, even priorities within our government system, it was about to really be important. And they didn’t have a portfolio on it, so they had me come in to build the portfolio, and I’ve been doing that now three years. 


Monica H. Kang
I think this is amazing. Well, let’s dive a little bit more into that. You mentioned a key element, which is it’s going to be important even more now than ever. Why is that? What’s different now that makes it more important? 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
Well, we call the climate crisis a crisis for a reason, right? There’s a sense of urgency here. Some of these climatic changes have been slowly, some of them more quickly creeping up on us for a while, and they’re only becoming more frequent, more intense, more urgent. And the reason this nexus is becoming equally more intense and more urgent is because the climate crisis actually has some disproportionate impacts on women and girls. And that’s really the crux of this portfolio. I could literally talk about this for like 45 minutes. I won’t. But the gist is because of women’s and girls roles, frequent roles in natural resource management, in managing and caring for the family, etcetera. There are different ways that climate change is impacting their ability to do their formal or informal jobs. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
That’s affecting their safety, affecting their educational or livelihood opportunities, especially as natural resource scarcity becomes more common, when it’s harder to obtain food or water, firewood, other, you know, things in the environment, because women and girls are often collecting water or growing food or responsible for providing meals for their families or protecting forests in often an informal capacity. And so when these scarcity events happen, it changes the way women and girls collect that water or food changes whether or not they can accomplish their quote unquote daily duties. And as a result, there’s just this giant chain reaction where women and girls experience greater risks of gender based violence. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
We call it gbv for short, when they’re out collecting water in new or more distant locations in the home, when they’re seen as not completing these natural resource related duties because of scarcity, following natural disasters in migration routes or in temporary shelters, all of that, we see healthcare resources disappearing for women and girls following climate related disasters. We see girls having to leave school because they used to take, you know, 30 minutes to collect water every morning and now it’s 6 hours a day. All of that is part of the disproportionate impact. But at the same time, while we address those impacts, it’s really important that we also uplift women and girls as leaders in addressing climate change. This has both, I like to say, both a moral imperative behind it and a strategic one. Right. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
From a moral perspective, it’s wrong to keep women and girls out of the decision making spaces, places that. Where the decisions affect them. But strategically. Well, number one, not smart to leave 50% of your population out of the development of solutions, especially as we are dealing with a crisis. But also because women and girls have this close relationship with their environment and their families. So they’re often the first to notice when environmental challenges or degradation events are occurring. It’s like an early warning system. And they have so much community knowledge that they know what sorts of solutions will be accepted by families and actually implemented. So that’s important too. That’s kind of the big picture of the gender climate nexus work. 


Monica H. Kang
And when you’re building on that, building on kind of your last few examples, I envision, like, especially in developing countries, and developing countries, right, like, have a greater visible impact on those situations, like, which kind of connects to this is actually where you’re connecting your entrepreneurship and innovation bridge, right? Like from some of the initiatives, would you be able to share a little bit more? 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
Yeah, well, first and foremost, you’re exactly right. A lot of these challenges are more visible in the global south, right? Especially when it comes to places where we have women collecting water or, you know, things like that, subsistence agriculture, etcetera. But I do want to point out that it’s not just the global south, right? So, for example, you only have to look back to the early two thousands. With Hurricane Katrina, there were disturbingly high rates of gender based violence reported in the disaster shelters in the US Gulf coast. Right? So that is very much a ubiquitous around the world challenge. There’s. There’s also women’s representation in different sectors related to the climate crisis, especially areas that have the potential to mitigate or adapt to the climate crisis. The energy sector, great example. The traditional energy sector, 22% women, that’s really low. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
And the renewable energy sector, which is a theoretically newer sector, where these gender roles and responsibilities should be less entrenched, only marginally better at 32%. So, yeah, absolutely. And so this is where it becomes a big all of the world challenge. So when it comes to developing solutions, we can get to kind of the initiatives that you were alluding to. One of the initiatives that I’m particularly proud of having launched in my office two and a half years ago now, is called the Innovation Station. And the goal behind this project is to identify and amplify women and girls who are developing creative, translatable solutions to climate related community challenges. This idea that climate change does not respect borders, we all face similar climate impacts, they just affect us in different ways. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
So solutions generated by one community might be particularly beneficial to, or lend best practices to others as well. So we find all these women and girls and we put them in our innovation station network, and we let them talk about their work to very large global audiences through virtual events and podcasts and newsletters. But behind the scenes, we also use our really broad networks at the state Department to help them make strategic relationships with different communities, domestically or internationally, that could benefit from learning about their work. They might want to collaborate, they might just want to find the framework to apply it to their own communities, things like that. So it’s a real exercise in really using networks, because I think a lot of times people create networks and it’s just like a list of people. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
But what are we really doing to make those networks have a positive impact? And so we’re doing that here in the climate space with women. 


Monica H. Kang
I love that. I mean, it makes me think of even your very first story of how you first got interested in science with the teacher who made science fun. All it takes is one person who helps you rethink reimagine to know that, hey, actually I might have an idea that might help more people and something that I could do. One other thing I also want to address that I think is very, really fun and will be great to learn from you is the systematic solution thinking that you’re sharing, I think climate change, and especially as we kind of dive into Earth day month of just learning more about sustainability, educating ourselves, I could say like kind of devil’s advocate something whether like, listeners might be thinking it’s like, this is all really great. Monica Aubrey like, we’re really inspired. 


Monica H. Kang
But like, I’m just one person. I don’t work at a big organization like the state to roman. Or like, maybe my company doesn’t really support sustainability goals. My city doesn’t believe in it. My community, my family doesn’t care about it. What do I do? So it’s great that if you’re in a place where you can build systems and have that support, but I’m curious if you have also advice and what we can do as individuals to help make a difference. Because I feel like sometimes it’s like food such a big deal, it’s such a big problem. And because it’s a crisis, maybe me alone, I can’t really do much. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
Well, we should never scoff at the power of individual action, right? If we see a lot of collective action problems in the world where it feels like, oh, unless everyone does something at the same time, no impact will be felt. And I understand why people might believe that, but I think it’s still true that an individual’s actions can influence other people and other systems, even if they’re one person. People talk a lot about the power of purchase, right? Being able to go to the store and select a food product that was certified to be produced in a way that emits fewer greenhouse gases, for example. Fill in the sustainability goal here, right? And that if enough people do, that really forces the food producers to shift their decisions and how they operate. That’s really important. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
But I think another piece of this is, and this is applicable in my line of work, but I think in everyone’s individual actions too, it’s the importance of storytelling and understanding individuals values to be able to introduce conversations that might be unpalatable on the surface to start changing perspectives a little bit at a time, right? So in my work, you know, I can go to colleagues in the government who are so overburdened with all of the responsibilities that they have and say, listen, you should work on this topic, on gender and climate. And they’re like, I would love to, but I have 8000 things to do already. So what do I do? I say, well, tell me about those 8000 things. And I can figure out, based on their existing priorities, where this topic already fits and they just haven’t seen it yet. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
So now they can are more amenable to incorporating it into their work. I think the same principle applies to individuals who might be in unfriendly environments when it comes to climate and sustainability conversations. It’s all about identifying who your audience is when you’re trying to have these conversations. If it’s your aunt or uncle or your local politician, your local representative, or the owner of the mom and pop shop who is providing goods for you to purchase, what do they care about? And how can you shape the message about climate and sustainability to speak to that which they care about? It can be anything. It could be business related. Why is this good for their profits? It can be socially related. It can be. There are ways to tie it to almost any topic. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
You can find ways, if you care enough about advancing these conversations. And so that’s another thing that in addition to your purchasing power, keep those strategic conversations and stories in mind because they can be incredibly impactful for getting people on board. 


Monica H. Kang
That’s really insightful. Thank you for sharing that. As you’re sharing these insights, I think one other thing that I’m really hearing, part of the key skills is really that mindset, that storytelling skills, as you said. So it’s not just the technical knowledge or knowing about science, but actually even the comment that you said about scientific thinking, that as a skill set. I’m curious because that in itself also are key skills to continue to hone. How do you like to continue to hone your craft as a leader, and what are ways that you like to continue to improve as a leader? 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
I’m not sure I have anything groundbreaking to share here, per se. I think there are incredible leaders that have all the tips and tricks, but for me personally, I am always trying to learn from the people that I work with, especially folks like interns who work under me and who I’m giving guidance to and who I am most directly leading on a day to day basis, making sure I’m creating space for them to share their concerns, of course, their questions in one one settings, in small group settings, understanding what settings are comfortable for them, and that not everyone will be comfortable in the same situation, I think that’s incredibly important. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
I also tend to look back on my own experiences when I was in less of a leadership position and try to identify what didn’t work for me as the person working under someone else, for example. It really, really bugged me when I was told to do something and I didn’t know why. I didn’t know how it was going to be used whatever product I was creating. So anytime I can identify something like an idiosyncrasy like that, I try to make a overtly conscious effort to not do that in my leadership now. So, for example, with my interns, every assignment, it’s like, this is what you’re responsible for, these are the expectations, and this is how I’m going to use what you generate. And then I give them updates, you know, after I do use it, was it well received? 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
Is it leading to something else? Are there more ways for them to follow up as well? So those are some of the things I do. 


Monica H. Kang
That’s really great. And, I mean, it’s giving us tangible communication skills, how to manage up, manage down, understanding that there’s lessons to look back at our past and don’t treat that essentially as past and closed doors, but actually revisit them to be reminded of maybe perhaps things that you could do more because of what you’ve experienced, both the goods and the bads. I’m curious, like, I mean, Aubrey, you’ve continued to do so many things as you have shared kind of the image of that person with the bio, with all these different experiences. Like, are there future experiences that you’re hoping to do more also? Like, more in climate change and other spaces? 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
Ooh, that’s another tough one. Monica, we like to ask tough questions here. Yeah, no, much respect. There’s nothing more boring than, like, the stock interview. Right? So I fully respect that. I think I would say I have different goals for short and long term and for professional and, like, side hobbies. Right. Like, I always need to be busy. It’s a blessing and a curse. So in the short term, on my work side on gender and climate, I am really excited this year about being able to engage with a large number of our us embassies all around the world to do what I described before, which is figure out what are you already working on and how can we make this gender climate topic fit logically. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
It’s all inspired by the fact that late last year in 2023, we released the first ever us strategy to respond to the effects of climate change on women. And so now I get to use that as a platform to be like, okay, here is the big picture. How can we get this into the work that you’re doing? So I have been in talks with so many embassies already this year to find ways to work on this topic. Hopefully we’ll get to visit a few of them. That would be really cool as well. So that’s definitely comes to mind. Yeah, yeah. Stay tuned. Hopefully, hopefully more. More great impacts to come. And then on the side, hustle, personal side, I’m just really interested in exploring all different sectors. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
In a way, I feel like I’ve had experiences now with business, obviously with government, with research and academia. I really enjoy things that are conversational and sort of media centric. So that could be. That’s something I’d like to learn more about as the years go on to just keep adding another dot to that weird resume career path, if you will. 


Monica H. Kang
Well, with that, you’re going to continue to help, as you have pointed out, tell better stories to make this learning of these different fields more accessible and not so jargony. So it feels tough. I think whether folks are tuning in to get excited about the science or the diplomacy or just being inspired to meet another leader in sustainability, I think they’re going to walk away with a lot of wisdom. With all that being said, I know you also probably had many moments where things didn’t go the way you wanted and had failures and challenges bring us back to maybe some of those moments. What happened? How did you face them and what helped you overcome? Or if you didn’t, what did you do with it? 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
Yeah. What is a good example to give here? I think it is because it is very easy to fall back on working in the sciences. In the lab, things only work 30% of the time, if you’re lucky. That can be really challenging, especially when you’re in the throes of a PhD, which can feel never ending and really intense. In the sciences, I would say really tried to apply a creative way of thinking, especially when the experiment, the hypothesis, it just wasn’t panning out the way I had hoped. Being able to put a new spin on it and examine new possibilities is something that is relevant to the lab bench, but it’s relevant to the real world as well. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
But beyond that, I would say in a place like the state department, especially when you’re new to the game, when I first started, you face roadblocks everywhere, right? Like there’s a reason people say, you know, bureaucracy is big and it’s tough to work within. For me, that has most frequently looked like me working on something that other people also work on a little bit and needing to connect the dots and just be very cognizant of how I’m working on a project while incorporating others opinions and perspectives because they work on a piece of it, but also being able to maintain my ownership of this niche or this idea that I have and being able to say, okay, I have an idea for a project. How do I convince the people that need to sign off on this that they should sign off on this? 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
And I feel like I’m almost a broken record at this point. But once again, this is another place where identifying what matters to the people who matter, how that can be so strategic. Because if my office is like, oh, well, we’d love to have you do this, but our priority is XYZ right now, then I can say, well, how about we connect it to XY, this project idea to XYZ by doing ABC. You know what I mean? Like, it’s always strategic in those failure moments, in those success moments, to know who you’re working with and how to speak to them in the. 


Monica H. Kang
Language they’re speaking, that customer mindset, focusing on who you’re speaking with. I think that is so key based on what you shared. And thank you for sharing an example, because I know folks who are tuning in whatever industry they’re in. Roadblocks happen normally all the time, in all different contexts, and so normalizing it, knowing that it does happen, even in your dream job and amazing places that you love and thrive, and it’s okay. The key is what you do with it and how you build upon it. And thank you for sharing those tips and examples. One of the other things we’ve been trying to do is educating ourselves more and meeting other leaders. And so in this series, I’ve asked all my guests to introduce us to more innovators that we should learn from as we celebrate Earth Day. 


Monica H. Kang
I’m curious if you can shout out, they don’t have to be female per se, but it’s okay. That’s an extra bonus. But are there three innovators around the world? Anyone that you would recommend we follow and learn from, who happen to be making a difference in sustainability and climate change. Who would be? Three names. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
How do I pick just three? I will probably mention a couple of the women that are part of our innovation station network. The first, and it’s so hard to pick because they’re all incredible. We pick them because they’re incredible to be part of this initiative. One of them is Brandi Ducarli. She is the founder of Farm from a Box. And this is an organization that basically devises sustainable, off grid agriculture solutions that get shipped to a location in a shipping container. And it becomes that shipping container kind of turns into the module where, like the hub, if you will, for the drip irrigation for the, you know, the solar energy to power what have you. It’s so cool. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
And they do so much great working, like sending these containers to places where there are refugee communities or native american communities that need support, especially in the face of climate change, et cetera. So that would be one. Where else should I go with this? There’s so many. Jen Deanto Kemmerly. Jen is, she leads the fairly world renowned seafood watch program at Monterey Bay Aquarium out in California. And so this program is all about working with seafood producers in different parts of the world. A lot of our seafood comes from not here in the United States. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
Examining the sustainability, the environmental and social sustainability of their fishing or their seafood production practices gives them a rating and basically says, okay, we need to do XYZ things here to improve, to get you to a more sustainable way to operate, which then gets translated to the consumer when different suppliers and, you know, different companies who are purchasing that fish stock, let’s say they say, oh, well, we’re only going to purchase this if it’s rated green or yellow or above, right? Not, we won’t purchase red. And so then they create these tools and consult with the communities to improve the sustainability of the practices. So that would be a good one. And then let’s see one more. Oh, okay. This one’s cool. So, in Africa, we have a woman who’s part of the network. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
Her name is Doctor Lucy King, and she is part of the organization called Save the Elephants, where she leads their elephants and bees project. So this is sort of in line with wildlife conservation and pollinator protection. So she’s a scientist as well. And she and her colleagues learned about how local custom in some of these african countries, like folklore, almost said that elephants were terrified of beehives. They would run away from them. And so they decided to scientifically study this observation. And it turns out that observation was. Was pretty much accurate. Elephants learn that bees hurt, they sting, so they stay away from them and their hives. And because elephants are so smart, they can actually learn this and pass it on to their young as well. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
And so what they’ve done is, in the areas where they work, there’s high rates of human elephant conflict, which is dangerous for humans. It’s also not good for elephants if we’re trying to conserve and preserve them. And so they are working with especially small agriculture like producers in these countries to use beehive fences to kind of surround their plots of land so that the elephants don’t come and raid their crops, which would typically result in this human elephant conflict. So they get, you know, they get their food security and their crops and being able to sell their crops, et cetera. The elephants stay away and they get the added benefit of increasing the pollinator counts and the ecosystem health in those areas as well. 


Monica H. Kang


Dr. Aubrey Paris
Is that not so cool? 


Monica H. Kang
That is very cool. That is multi problem solving. And I know we had to make the difficult decision of having to choose three, but you can send us more names and we will add them in the blog. Folks who are tuning in, you know the drill. Find the blog. If you have trouble, just shoot me an [email protected], but that’s where we will tag and share all these stories so you can follow up and continue the learning and insights. Aubrey, thank you so much. You shared so many different wisdom and perspective. As we wrap up, two final questions is one, any final words of wisdom you must share with our innovators, no matter where they are in their journey? Mmm. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
Okay, so my last, I guess, insight here is based out of a pet peeve of mine. I am so annoyed when people are led to believe that the subject matter on their degree or the first job, the first real, quote, unquote, job that they had, when people tell them, that is all you’re qualified to do for the rest of your life. I find that so inhibiting and frankly, so offensive. It’s as if we are not multidimensional people with various life experiences, professional and personal. It’s as if those experiences don’t exist and don’t count, and they absolutely do. So I am the biggest advocate in my personal capacity for. For making sure people know that what it says on your degree, that should not be a hindrance. 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
It should be an enabler, and it should just be the first thing that you feel that you’re qualified to do, but certainly not the last. 


Monica H. Kang
What a powerful reminder. Thank you so much. Our final question is, what is the best way innovators can stay in touch with you and connect with you? 


Dr. Aubrey Paris
Oh, how kind of you to ask. I am a millennial at heart, so I am available on all the social medias. I can be found in my personal capacity on Twitter and Instagram, El Tucker Eleven, and on LinkedIn in more of my professional capacity. If you search Aubrey Parris, I think you’ll find me pretty quickly. I also have some cool personal projects over there that I would encourage folks to check out. 


Monica H. Kang
Awesome. Well, thank you so much again. We will make sure we add all those links so that way everyone can find it. But, Aubrey, thank you so much. This was such a treat. Thank you for joining and helping us better learn about your inspiring journey, but also how we can do a better job in addressing climate change and sustainability. So thank you. And thank you all for tuning in for another story. We’ll be back again next week with another story to inspire you. I’ll see you later. Thank you. 


Monica H. Kang
Thank you Aubrey for inspiring us and reminding us about the importance that just because what we studied at school or what we had in our first job isn’t the end that will define our future forever. And I love your reminder that hey, remember that humans are multidimensional. We hope that the person you are today, no matter where you are right now, is continuing to change because of the experiences and time and hey, because of even the time you spend here listening to this story. We hope we have inspired you and helped you rethink how you can innovate and show up with your superpowers in different ways, just like how Doctor Aubrey Paris is doing with her bridge in science and diplomacy. So well, continue on next week as we celebrate Earth Day, how other innovators are thinking about sustainability differently. 


Monica H. Kang
And next week were gonna meet somebody who has found YouTube as a unique channel to communicate the importance of agriculture differently. You might have come across these videos from many of the channels, so stay tuned and I will see you next week. 


Speaker 4
Thanks so much for tuning into today’s episode. Your support means the world to us, so we’re so glad you’re here. Want to do a little shout out for those in the team who made this possible? Thank you to everyone at InnovatorsBox Studios, Audio engineering and production is done by Sam Lehmart, Audio Engineering Assistance by Ravi Lad, Website and Marketing support by Kree Pandey, Graphic Support by Leah Orsini, Christine Eribal. Original Music by InnovatorsBox Studios and executive producing, directing, writing, researching and hosting by me Monica Kang, founder and CEO of InnovatorsBox. Thank you for continuing on the journey. Visit [email protected] and get some free resources atinnovatorsbox.com/free. Reap. We look forward to seeing you at the next episode. Thank you and have a wonderful day. 

Related Posts