Contact

Polymathic Scholars
CNS Honors Center
Painter Hall (PAI) 5.37

Mailing Address
The University of Texas at Austin
1 University Station G2500
Austin, TX 78712-0806

Mollie Marchione, Coordinator
mtmarchione@austin.utexas.edu
T: 512-232-1048

 

luke-irwin-web

Where are you from?
I was mostly raised in Paris, TX. We have an Eiffel Tower with a red cowboy hat on top. In the tourist brochure for this city, a main attraction is a gravestone featuring a Jesus on Calvary, wearing cowboy boots. It is an interesting place.

What’s your major?
I majored in neurobiology, with a minor in programming and biomimicry.

Why did you join Polymathic Scholars?
I think I joined Polymathic Scholars during orientation. I checked off a box during my application phase that asked me if I was interested in “interdisciplinary studies,” and when I arrived for orientation, they shuttled me away to some Polymathic Scholars meeting. I didn’t realize that I had a choice until my second year, and by then I was having too much fun. I am really interested in interdisciplinary education. Knowledge specialization is exactly how it sounds- narrow. The most exciting areas of science and research are the grey areas, the in-betweens that fall in the middle of the gaps in the fields that most people know. Why wouldn’t I want to be involved in an organization that embraces this fact? The support I found in that first year, especially from Madison, really gave me a connection to UT that I hadn’t received from any other faculty members, or any other organization. Polymathic Scholars is fantastic like that.

What is your topic for Polymathic Scholars? What disciplines does it combine?
My topic is Biomimicry, the idea that our technology should be directed and shaped by the natural patterns already inherent on our planet. It combines more disciplines than I can name. At its furthest reach, biomimicry must include biology, engineering, electronics, chemistry, physics, social sciences, information systems, programming, and everything else that has existed, or likely that ever will. This is the sort of topic that can only survive in such a broad and accepting group as PS.

How did you become interested in your topic?
I stumbled upon my topic during my freshman year Polymathic Scholars rhetoric class. I vaguely recall that my original PS topic was something to connect neurobiology and technology, a sort of cognitive electronic and interactive platform. Those first few weeks of research assured me very soundly that we are probably still centuries away from what I had in mind. However, in doing all of this research that blurred the boundaries of organic matter and silicon technology, I found the expanding niche of biomimicry. I have always been raised as a greenie (which is like a hippie, but you still shower), and as a technophile. Biomimicry presented a way that I could respect and protect nature, while still endorsing my ineffable attraction to shiny things with buttons. The more research I did, the more passionate I became about this obscure topic. Here was a way I could actually save the world. Not parts of it, but all of it. Ideals into practice.

What is the most interesting thing you have learned so far about your topic?
It may sound peculiar, but everything I find out about biomimicry is the most interesting thing I have learned so far. The greatest thing about it is that it is always applicable. From architecture, to construction, to politics, to medicine, to social constructs, to fashion, biomimicry can be a solution that will improve every aspect of our lives, and our planet’s livelihood. There aren’t many win-win scenarios in this world. This may be one of the few, and it is magnificent in scale. I will not follow anything blindly, and this has earned my respect through astounding amounts of data. Rare, indeed.

What do you believe you have gained, personally or professionally, from being a part of Polymathic Scholars?
Personally, PS has given me optimism. It is comforting to be surrounded by brilliant people who believe in what they are studying, and they want to do things with their life. Those sorts of people fill me with hope and joy at being a part of anything, and I stumbled upon an organization full of them. Professionally, PS helped me guide myself into some sort of quagmire. Originally, I had my career all planned out, up to and including going to medical school in the next couple years. Yet, during my Capstone course, when I started to find out just how much biomimicry could truly do, and how I could get involved, I started to hesitate. Why be a doctor, and heal people and treat symptoms, when I could have a career in biomimicry, which would let me heal the world and stop the problems that cause many of the illnesses in the first place?

Do you have any advice for other Polymaths on how to make the most of the program?
I have little advice for other Polymaths in the program. If they found the program, they are already making something of their college careers. The only advice that I can give is to just stay with it. Those first rhetoric and logic classes may seem a bit dull and droll, but they do help in the long run. In addition, make use of Polymathic Scholars as a resource. Between our study abroad scholarship programs, all of the student panels discussing important world events, and the leadership opportunities presented by the panel, PS is a fantastic way to find your place in the world.