Christine Figgener, a Texas A&M University Ph.D. candidate, who in 2015 filmed the viral video of her research crew dislodging a plastic straw from a sea turtle’s nose, was recognized this week by TIME magazine as a 2018 Next Generation Leader.
TIME credited Figgener, for helping galvanize a global movement that resulted in companies to eliminate the use of plastic straws from their daily operations.
“As long as I am breathing I will try to make a difference,” Figgener told TIME. “And I’m trying to motivate the next generation to make a difference, because even though it’s not their fault, they are likely the people that will find the solutions to our problems.”
This marine biologist is changing the way people think about plastic https://t.co/x08C0W41Ff
— TIME (@TIME) October 11, 2018
Figgener, who is in the process of finishing her dissertation in the interdisciplinary graduate program in marine biology, appears on the 2018 Next Generation Leaders list alongside international pop star Ariana Grande, comedian Hasan Minhaj and French soccer star Kylian Mbappé among others. TIME’s annual list has featured more than 60 young people “who are blazing new trails in politics, entertainment, fashion, science, sports and more.”
Figgener told TIME that in addition to working on finishing her dissertation, she visits schools to talk to students about the ocean, works with a group of girls in Indiana to eliminate disposable plastic utensils from their cafeteria and takes part in a pen pal program that she hopes paints a different picture of what it means to be a scientist.
“A lot of people still have in mind that a scientist needs to be a white male,” Figgener told TIME. “I want to give children the idea that they can be a scientist, too, no matter who they are.”
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