Environmental biologist creates better world for tomorrow

February 11 is International Women and Girls in Science Day and all over the globe, people are finding ways to celebrate the ways in which women have, are, and will contribute to science. Many of them live and work in Central Ohio and are making a difference in the lives we lead.

Lura Armbruster, a production area lead at Nexceris, a Lewis Center, Ohio-based company focused on renewable energy sources, is one of those women. A graduate of Ohio University with a bachelor’s degree in environmental biology, Armbruster believes the most important thing the world should be focusing on is creating a better environment than the one we were given. Each day she goes to work, she is doing her part to do just that. “In the next decade, I would like to help my company take major steps toward creating more eco-friendly fuel cells and batteries to replace our current more harmful options.”

Armbruster grew up in a household that respected science and all it offered. Her mother holds a master’s degree in anthropology, and her father has a degree in industrial engineering.

“Growing up, my parents exposed my brother and me to many science-related games, shows, etc.,” Armbruster said.  “What made me want to do something in science was the CSI facial reconstruction kit my mom gave me for Christmas. It allowed me to combine my love of art with my love of science in a way I did not realize was possible.”

Her mom was pivotal in her pursuing science academically and professionally. “I loved listening to her stories from when she was an archeologist and learning about the Native American mounds that were just a five-minute drive from our house,” Armbruster said. “She always tried to share her experience with me and give me guidance when she could.”

While Armbruster said her mom was her key role model, other women along the way have mentoring when needed. Her high school honors biology teacher taught her about all the opportunities STEM can provide if one is willing to work hard. Another work mentor provided not only professional assistance when needed but helped Armbruster join projects in which she was interested.

As others helped her, Armbruster believes working with young women is the path forward for STEM. “I think that showing young women a vast range of options and opportunities that become available to them through STEM would be a huge motivator to study STEM subjects,” she said. “I know that seeing the opportunities and hearing about other women’s experiences made an enormous difference in how I thought about STEM. It is also important to show them that they may be able to combine interests in ways they never thought possible and create whole careers out of them; the same way the CSI facial reconstruction toy made me feel like I wanted to go into forensic sciences to combine my love of art and science.”